Deniese O’Flaherty reporting from the St. Loman’s GAA Grounds, Mullingar
Cnoc Mhuire, Granard staged a dramatic comeback to claim their first Leinster Vocational Schools Senior ‘A’ title with a one point win over Meath opponents Ashbourne Community School in a most exciting finish to the final at the St. Loman’s GAA grounds in Mullingar on Saturday last
Trailing by two points entering stoppage time it looked like Cnoc Mhuire would endear heartbreak again in this competition but the resilience that has been evident in Longford teams in recent years was shown as Mullinalaghta lad Aidan McElligott rose high to flick the ball to the back of the net for a last gasp goal that proved to be the winning score.
The victory was no more than the Granard school deserved as they showed true grit and determination in a game that at times looked to be getting away for them. They dominated the majority of possession but at one stage in the first half found themselves trailing by seven points. They didn’t panic and showed great fighting spirit to get back into the game and can now look forward to a crack at Cork opponents Clonakilty Community College in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday week, March 30th.
Despite starting the game brightly Cnoc Mhuire found themselves behind by four points with just four minutes gone on the clock. In a couple of attacks Ashbourne scored 1-1; Jack Hannigan with the goal in the 4th minute and half-back Conor Carton followed up with a point.
Cnoc Mhuire had a chance to get their first score on the board in the 6th minute but Mattie Gorman’s effort was blocked before Ashbourne stretched their lead to five points in the 8th minute when Niall Moriarty pointed a free.
In the 11th minute Cnoc Mhuire finally got off the mark, a free converted by Rian Brady after he was fouled, but they then hit three wides in a row as they failed to convert their possession into scores. They were playing all the football but it was Ashbourne who were getting the scores; courtesy of mistakes. Points from Kevin Fenton and Sean Byrne stretched the Meath school’s advantage to six points in the 19th minute and it was seven three minutes later when Aidan Hughes got on the scoresheet.
Cnoc Mhuire then had a lucky escape when Hannigan went close to getting his second goal in the 24th minute but he hit the upright with a powerful shot. Aaron Brady then got Cnoc Mhuire’s second point in the 27th minute and moments later they scored a badly needed goal; Fionnan O’Reilly finding the back of the net with a sweet strike to leave his side trailing by 1-5 to 1-2 at the break.
Points were traded between Rian Brady (free) and Fenton in the early stages of the second half before another Rian Brady free and a fantastic point from play by Mattie Gorman cut the deficit to just the minimum of margins.
Then Ashbourne were awarded a rather dubious free in the 35th minute which Hannigan pointed and Cnoc Mhuire then hit another two wides before they eventually got back on level terms with a brace of scores through Aidan McElligott and Fionnan O’Reilly.
The momentum was now with the Granard school and in the 44th minute they went ahead for the first time when Liam Sullivan was fouled and David McGivney fired over the free.
With four minutes of normal time remaining Ashbourne were reduced to 14 players, but the Longford side failed to add on scores when they had the opportunities.
And that nearly proved costly as Ashbourne were awarded a penalty in the 60th minute. It was a strange decision by referee Damien Maher and Jack Hannigan stepped up to dispatch the spot-kick to the net for what appeared to be the winning goal.
But two points is a precarious lead and with time still remaining Cnoc Mhuire created a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with Aidan McElligott the hero as he rose high to flick the ball to the back of the net. Nerves were frayed as the referee played on two more minutes but Cnoc Mhuire held out for a historic win.
CNOC MHUIRE: Luke Meehan (Northern Gaels); Tadhg McGahern (Mullahoran), Diarmuid Fitzsimons (Mullahoran), Barry McKiernan (Northern Gaels); Anthony O’Reilly (Northern Gaels), Sean McKeogh (Mullahoran), Liam Sullivan (Granard/Ballymore); David McGivney (Northern Gaels, 0-1, free), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels, 1-1); Mattie Gorman (Granard/Ballymore, 0-1), Nigel Rabbitte (Northern Gaels), Ciaran Mallon (Granard/Ballymore); Rian Brady (Northern Gaels, 0-3, all frees), Aaron Brady (Gowan, 0-1), Fionnan O’Reilly (Mullahoran, 1-1).
Sub:- Mark Kiernan (Ballymachugh) for A Brady (46 mins).
ASHBOURNE CS: David O’Connor; Liam Finn, Jack McCarney, Darragh McGovern; Niall Lenehen, Conor Carton (0-1), Thomas McGovern; Aidan Hughes (0-1), Sam Benville; Cian Lynch, Sean Byrne (0-1), Kevin Fenton (0-2, one free); Aidan O’Connor, Jack Hannigan (2-1, one goal from penalty), Niall Moriarty (0-1).
Subs:- Ross Howard for N Moriarty (half-time), Jack Giles for A O’Connor (48 mins), Jack Toohey for C Lynch (56 mins).
Referee: Damien Maher (Westmeath).