Leinster Schools Rugby Senior Cup
The Leinster Schools Senior Challenge Cup is the premier rugby union competition for secondary schools affiliated to the Leinster Branch of the IRFU. First held in 1887, the Cup celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2007.
Senior Schools Cup Rugby is divided into 4 tiers in two sections and each cup competition bears a name as follows: Section A Leinster Schools Rugby Senior Development Cup (effectively division 4), Section A Leinster Schools Rugby McMullen Cup (effectively division 3), Section B Leinster Schools Vinnie Murray Cup (effectively division 2), Section B Leinster Schools Rugby Senior Cup Challenge Cup (effectively division 1).
Attendances are high for a schoolboy competition, with up to 25,000 present at the final. This match traditionally takes place on Saint Patrick's Day at Lansdowne Road (now known as the Aviva Stadium). In 2011, the final was played at the RDS, and the Cup was won by Clongowes Wood College.
The competition has been subject to criticism from various quarters as being "elitist" (as most of the competing schools are fee-paying; in fact only one non fee-paying school has won the cup, De La Salle Churchtown) and for putting undue pressure on its participants. It is also the subject of satire through the Ross O'Carroll Kelly newspaper column and novels. The competition and schools rugby in the four provinces has been praised though with "Irish (rugby) game in debt to schools rugby".
Blackrock College are by far the most successful school in the Cup's history, having lifted the Cup 66 times, followed by Belvedere College with 10 wins and Terenure College with 10 wins also, but the last time Belvedere won the cup was in 2008 and the last time Terenure won the cup was in 2003 so Belvedere are counted ahead of Terenure.
Two schools have won the Cup at their first attempt; Blackrock College in the competition's maiden year in 1887 and Castleknock College who won the first of their eight Leinster titles at the first time of asking when they defeated Blackrock in the 1913 final.
To date only five schools have achieved the almost mythical Senior and Junior Cup "double". These are Blackrock, who have achieved this feat 23 times (1910, 1912, 1927, 1933, 1935–36, 1942–43, 1945, 1948, 1953–54, 1956–57, 1962, 1964, 1981–82, 1986–87, 1995, 2004, 2006), St Michaels (2012), Belvedere (2005), Terenure (1958) and Castleknock (1920). No double was won by any school (including Blackrock) in the 16 years from 1964 to 1981.
The Cup, and the Schools who play for it, have a history of producing fine rugby players, many of whom go on to play for Ireland. Players such as Denis Hickie, who captained his St. Mary's College team to win the cup in 1994, and Gordon D'Arcy have impressive senior cup records. The most international players produced have come from Blackrock College, with players such as Brian O'Driscoll, Victor Costello, Shane Byrne, Bob Casey, Leo Cullen and more recently Luke Fitzgerald.
Three captains have gained the distinction of lifting the cup twice, Jonny Mion (Blackrock College) in 1989 and 1990, Barry Gibney (Blackrock College) in 1995 and 1996.
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