Cistercian College may take High Court action over Leinster Schools Senior Cup rule

Eoin Kelleher


Eoin Kelleher


Cistercian College

Cistercian College Roscrea

Cistercian College Roscrea is appealing against a rule stating that unless an exemption is granted a student must be attending a school for 20 months before they can compete in the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup.

In a statement this week, the College says it may have to take a High Court action by next Monday (January 15) to ensure their students are able to compete.

Cistercian College Roscrea won the Leinster Senior Cup for the first time in 2015. The 20-month rule was introduced by the Leinster Branch Schools Committee.

“This rule and with it the ban on repeat 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 Bank of Ireland Leinster Senior Cup and its feeder competitions.

“In applying this rule, the Leinster Branch Schools Committee is of the view that they are not stopping anyone attending a particular school nor are they preventing anyone from playing rugby.

“The decision by parents or guardians to send their son to a boarding school is a significant one and often requires financial and other sacrifices by the families involved. Sometimes this means that such a decision has to be delayed until the student is ready to enter senior cycle and Cistercian College has a long tradition of welcoming students from a range of backgrounds and locations for a very strong TY programme and Leaving Certificate syllabus. That decision to attend boarding school is made for the primary goal of giving the student involved the best possible educational experience and it is critical that as a school we do all in our powers to allow new students, especially those arriving for senior cycle, the best possible chance to integrate into school life, in all its facets, and to reach their full potential.

Due to a number of factors often unrelated to sport, Cistercian College has many students who start in Fifth year and as such, we believe that the school is uniquely affected by this rule, a key point that the Leinster Branch Schools Committee has never acknowledged.

“Over the last three years, eleven boys did not accept a place at Cistercian College as their reasonable individual requests for exemption from this rule were 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 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 Cistercian College less than 12 months ago. Each and every one of these applications has 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.

The legal representatives of Cistercian College has carried out a full review of the adoption and implementation of these rules and are satisfied that there are serious and fatal flaws contained which make the specific rules invalid and unenforceable.

“We have today written to the IRFU & Leinster Branch outlining these concerns and asked them to urgently and immediately waive the requirements of the ’20 month rule’ and the ban on repeat Leaving Certificate students for the 2018 Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup and associated competitions, in advance of a full review of the legal validity of said rule and its administration for any future competitions.

“Cistercian College has sought to address these issues with the Leinster Branch unsuccessfully. The school remains of the view that it ought to be possible and is preferential, that this matter be resolved amicably between the relevant parties. Should  the situation remain  unresolved by midday Monday 15th January, Cistercian College will be left with no alternative but to bring proceedings before the High Court, challenging the regulations, processes and decisions involved so as to ensure that the nine schoolboys concerned are available for selection to represent their school in The Bank of Ireland Senior Cup Competition.”

Ronnie Culliton, Chairman of the Cistercian College Board of Management stated: “The teaching of Saint Benedict seeks to ensure that “the strong have something to strive for while the weak are not discouraged”. We, as a Board and a school, strongly believe that this action is critical to protect the best interests of all schoolboys and schools, present and future, who aspire to compete in the wonderful competition that is the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Senior Cup.”