The Leinster Schools Senior Cup begins today and there are several fascinating ties this week

IN NO OTHER sport does a breeding ground quite like the Schools Senior Cup exist. The competition’s swelling levels of professionalism and quality is reflected in the heightened substance afforded to it by the four provinces, players and schools.

This afternoon, the Leinster Schools Senior Cup gets under way with last year’s winners, and the competition’s protagonists, Blackrock College beginning their defence against Terenure College at Donnybrook.

It marks the beginning of the show-piece event of the schools season and a three month period of non-stop action across all four provinces as the next generation of stars are given an undiluted platform to exhibit their ability and make a name for themselves.

Just as importantly, however, is the competition’s facility to provide young players with a rich, and indeed raw, rugby education.

Once again, Blackrock are the favourites as the 68-time winners begin their quest to win three Senior Cups in a row. They narrowly beat Clongowes Wood 22-17 at the RDS last year and it would take a brave punter to bet against Peter Smyth’s side lifting the trophy on St Patrick’s weekend.

Their first hurdle comes in the form of a Terenure side with Leinster’s Isaac Boss among their coaching staff. The fixture also is the beginning of Setanta Sports’ coverage of both the Senior and Junior Cups.

In addition to today’s game, the broadcaster will televise the four second-round games, the semi-finals and then the final. In the Junior Cup, meanwhile, Setanta will show the semi-finals and final live.

The media coverage given to the competition is another indication of its relevance Source: Colm O’Neill/INPHO

The extensive media coverage given to all four provinces underlines the significance and prestige of the competitions and as primary sponsor of the Leinster Senior Cup, Bank of Ireland are proud to be associated with schools rugby.

“We realise that to get these players to professional team level there is a broad underage base of participation built around the twin pillars of schools and club rugby,” Ian Murray, Sponsorship manager at Bank of Ireland, told The42. 

All eight first round ties are down for decision this week. On Monday, CUS make their return to the big stage after missing out last year when they face a dangerous CBC Monkstown who have already beaten St Michael’s and Clongowes this term.

The smaller schools will look to St Andrews’ exploits last year as inspiration. The Booterstown school were the surprise package in 2014 as they punched above their weight by making it to the semi-finals where they gave Clongowes a run for their money.

By virtue of their last four appearance, St Andrew’s earned a place in the main draw this year and will open their campaign against Vinnie Murray Cup finalists The King’s Hospital.

The emergence of St Andrew’s, who are historically a hockey-playing school, is another example of schools who aren’t as traditionally strong investing time and resources into the sport.

St Andrew’s punched above their weight last year and they’ll be hoping to build on that

“The rise of St Andrew’s in last year’s competition took many onlookers by surprise but there has always been potential in the school, embodied by the progress of Felix Jones and Ben Marshall,” Richard McElwee of the Leinster Schools Committee tells

“Those within the schools game had seen what was coming in their implementation of a pragmatic and structured platform through the school. They are now seeing the fruits of their endeavours and coming from outside the recognized powerhouses of the schools game served to endear St Andrew’s to the many neutrals which the schools’ cup now attracts.

With games taking place on Donnybrook’s new 4G surface for the first time, King’s Hospital and the other qualifier, Castlenock, will hope that their previous outings at the venue in the Vinnie Murray Cup will give them the upper hand.

Castlenock, who have Leinster U18 representative Gavin Murray in their ranks, face Clongowes on Thursday. Nobody will give them much chance but that is when the underdogs are most dangerous.

There are three ties on Tuesday with St Michael’s and St Mary’s going head-to-head in one of the stand out fixtures of the round. The former won the competition in 2012 but exited at the hands of Blackrock last year.

With a host of Leinster and Irish players at their disposal, the Ballsbridge school will be considered as the front-runners to win their third title but they face a tricky opening game against Mary’s who are coached by former Leinster back Shaun Berne.

Meanwhile, Wesley College face Cistercian College Roscrea and Kilkenny play potential dark horses Newbridge in Carlow. In another fascinating fixture, Gonzaga and Belvedere meet at Donnybrook on Thursday

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