‘We haven’t won anything today. nothing’

Presentation Brothers Cork had just squeaked home against their oldest rivals to book a place in the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup final when Ger Burke reminded his players they had won nothing yet.

After a titanic contest that was played out in front of a boisterous crowd that had seen the outcome hung in the balance until the final whistle, it was easy to forget this was not the final itself, rather the last remaining obstacle on route to next month’s decider PBC head coach Burke quickly reminded his team of the bare facts. They had come from 19-7 down midway through the second half to rally with two converted tries in the final 10 minutes, the second scored by full-back Ben O’Connor who then lasered his kick between the uprights from close to the left touchline to give his side the winning advantage.

Pres will await the winners of the other semi-final between Crescent College Comprehensive and Bandon Grammar, which this week was postponed due to an unplayable, weather-hit pitch at Tom Clifford Park in Limerick.

“We just had a conversation in the middle,” Burke said just after full-time. “Unfortunately, just after a game when emotions are so high in my job as a coach is to land them, because we haven’t won anything today. Nothing.

Presentation Brothers College’s Ben O’Connor celebrates at the final whistle with Danny Sheahan. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

“So my job there was to bring these boys back down to earth. We’ve been beaten by Bandon at the start of the year and we were beaten in the first round of the cup by Crescent so we have absolutely no room for complacency.

“It’s going to take that and something more to win in it, or if we’re going to come close to winning it. They are two fantastic sides, they play good rugby, so I couldn’t tell you who’ll win that one.

“It’s weather-dependent but hopefully it’s going to be a cracking final, whoever gets in.”

It was a cracking semi-final too, momentum shifting frequently throughout between the two Cork city rivals. Given the nature of previous tussles between them a tight contest was widely predicted and so it proved. Pres finally broke the deadlock after an end-to-end opening 28 minutes when center Rory O’Shaughnessy struck from midfield, creating a break with excellent footwork before passing inside to support runner Fionn Roussel, the flanker diving for the opening try with full- back O’Connor, a Cork minor hurler, kicking the conversion.

Their 7-0 lead lasted just a little over seven minutes as CBC got their reward for repeated pressure sparked by a great offload off the deck that wing Shane Maloney ran onto at pace on the Pres 10-metre line. He advanced to five meters out and was injured in the process but Christians had the break they needed and despite being held up over the line they profited from a Pres knock-on and struck from the resulting five-metre scrum, scrum-half Jack Casey getting over from short range with half-back partner Daire Burke adding the extras to make it 7-7 at half-time.

Burke would be instrumental in his school’s go-ahead try shortly after the break, though it stemmed from his missed penalty. The kick was wide and short but stayed live and was touched down by a CBC player though referee Goerge Clancy saw both sides knock-on in the process. CBC got the five-metre scrum and after edging towards the left corner, Burke switched directions and sent a crossfield kick right with his full-back Ben Lynch leaping highest in the corner to catch and dot down. The touchline conversion was missed but Christians had moved into a 12-7 lead after 45 minutes.

Burke scored himself next after center Mathew O’Shaughnessy had carried to the line, the fly-half taking a short pass from Casey and then converting his own try to open up daylight at 19-7 on 55 minutes.

  Adam Twomey and Scott Sexton, for Presentation Brothers College stop the progress of Benjamin Lynch, Christian Brothers College.  Picture: Larry Cummins
Adam Twomey and Scott Sexton, for Presentation Brothers College stop the progress of Benjamin Lynch, Christian Brothers College. Picture: Larry Cummins

Then came the Pres fightback, full-back O’Connor sending the ball wide after forward pressure nearer the posts to send wing Sean Condon home in the left corner. O’Connor, not to be outdone by rival kicker Burke, then nailed the near touchline conversion to leave CBC protecting a 19-14 lead.

The momentum was with Pres and O’Connor, though, the full-back rifling a diagonal kick some 60 meters into the left corner, Condon chasing hard and then tackling the covering defender into touch 10 meters from the CBC tryline.

It was O’Connor who grabbed the equalizing try as the ball was once again played to the edge after some attritional forward work and his conversion five meters in from the left touch line won the game.

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