Cistercian College Roscrea, an institution that has schooled the likes of former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, legendary horse trainer Willie Mullins, and Connacht full back Tiernan O'Halloran, are threatening High Court action against the IRFU and the Leinster Branch schools committee over a ruling on the eligibility of nine of their rugby players.
This dispute has arisen over a rule which the Leinster Branch introduced in 2015, called the “20 month rule,” in a effort to eradicate leading rugby nurseries recruiting talent from smaller schools and smaller rugby clubs from around the country.
The rule states that a pupil must be enrolled at the school before fifth year if he is to be eligible to play in the Leinster Schools Senior Cup. These practices by the "leading schools" have been in operation for over a decade, if not longer.
Roscrea stated in a press release today:
The 20 month rule and with the ban on Leaving Certificate students participating in The Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup presents Cistercian College with grave difficulties, challenging the very core of its ethos and its commitment to pupils. As such, the college believes it has no remaining option but to take action to address this.
The central principle for what is an unclear and flawed rule states that a boy joining a Leinster school must be in attendance at the school for 20 months before being eligible to play in the Leinster schools senior cup and its feeder competitions.
In applying this rule, the Leinster Branch schools committee are of the view that they are not stopping anyone attending a particular school nor are they preventing anyone from playing rugby.
Cistercian College are arguing "they have many students who start in fifth year" due to financial reasons, and they believe that "the school is uniquely affected by this rule," and by the Leinster Branch enforcing the aforementioned rule, "they are denying teenagers the chance to compete at the highest level of school sports."
Roscrea went on to say,
Over the last three years, eleven boys did not accept a place at Cistercian College as their reasonable individual request for exemption from this rule was denied. To arbitrarily deny any boy or girl the opportunity to represent themselves and their family at the highest level of schools sport is simply wrong regardless of the school involved.
This academic year, the Leinster Schools committee have adjudicated on the fair and legitimate applications of nine Cistercian College students, young players and their families who have made real sacrifices and shown tremendous faith in committing their futures to the school despite the threat to the very future of Cistercians College less than 12 months ago. Each and every one have been rejected, despite due process, such as it is, being followed.
Our concerns are not about trying to manufacture success in a schoolboy competition. It is about putting the hopes, aspirations and futures of the schoolboys involved first in allowing them the chance to compete.
Roscrea have had great success in the Leinster Senior Cup in recent years, playing in three of the last seven finals, and winning the cup in 2015.