AIB League Division One rivals Clontarf and Lansdowne will meet in this season’s Leinster Senior League Cup final at Donnybrook on Friday night (kick-off 6.30pm), with Clontarf defending the title they won last season against St. Mary’s College.
The forerunner of the League Cup was the Leinster Senior Cup, a trophy that Lansdowne won on a record 24 occasions, the last of which was in 1998 when current director of rugby Stephen Rooney captained the headquarters club to beat Skerries 23-17.
Since the inception of the League Cup for the 2004/05 season, however, Clontarf have been the dominant club, winning it twice in 2006 and last season.
This is in marked contrast to the Senior Cup roll of honour, upon which their name only appears three times, with their last success coming in 2002 when they triumphed over County Carlow while their 1999 triumph bridged a 63-year gap to their last win.
Lansdowne overcame Old Belvedere 19-5 at the penultimate stage at the RDS last Saturday with South African import Charl Oosthuizen, on the left wing, scoring the first try as well as kicking three penalty goals and tighthead prop Darren O’Reilly added a second touchdown.
In the other semi-final, Clontarf travelled to St. Mary’s College and returned from Templeville Road with 17-10 win.
Right winger Michael Keating, a member of last season’s Belvedere Schools Cup-winning side, scored a try that has been described as a candidate for ‘try of the season’, with left winger Max Rantz-McDonald adding a brace.
Rantz-McDonald left the fray early last Saturday with a hamstring strain but the Clontarf management are confident that he will have recovered in time to play in the final.
Doubts remain regarding the availability of Paul O’Donohoe, Sean O’Brien and Cameron Jowitt given that the Leinster ‘A’ side are in action against the Ospreys at Belfield earlier on Friday.
Sean Treacy (son of John, Olympic silver medallist and CEO of the Irish Sports Council) is the likely deputy at scrum half for O’Donohoe, while experienced South African Currie Cup campaigner Heinrich Stride at blindside flanker and ex-Seapoint hooker Aaron Dundon have added an extra dimension up front to an already strong Clontarf pack.
Lansdowne are not so confident about scrum half Brian O’Riordan recovering in time from injury but to counter that loss, out-half Dave Hewitt is confident of returning to action after his injury-enforced absence.
Second row forward Willie Earls, who has stepped up from last season’s successful Lansdowne Under-20 squad, has been a leading light in the pack, while current Under-20 Matt Healy has been orchestrating the backs with dynamic effect from the base of the scrum.
The Leinster Senior League Cup final is still a much sought-after trophy in club circles and Friday evening’s decider promises to be a tight affair between two well-matched teams.
The teams for the cup decider have been provisionally announced but a number of vacancies on the benches will be confirmed closer to kick-off.
CLONTARF: Phil Howard; Michael Keating, Daragh O’Shea (capt), Breiffne O’Donnell, Max Rantz-McDonald; Martin Dufficy, Sean Treacy; Johnny Wickham, Aaron Dundon, Niall Treston, Simon Crawford, Ben Reilly, Heinrich Stride, Ben Focas, Martin Garvey.
Replacements: Niall Carson, Adrian Clarke, Simon O’Donnell, Peter O’Brien, Niall O’Brien, AN Other, AN Other.
Referee: David Keane (Leinster)