Cnoc Mhuire, Granard manager James Carroll admitted that the controversial incident in which Aidan McElligott was sent-off spurred his side on to claim the All-Ireland Vocational Schools Senior ‘A’ Football title at Croke Park on Saturday last.
The Mullinalaghta lad was harshly sent off in the 22nd minute for a second yellow card against Holy Trinity College, Cookstown and his team-mates put in a highly committed display to bring the title back to the north Longford school. “Aidan was sent-off but that was a huge motivator,” Carroll told the Leader. “Aidan is one of the most popular lads you could meet, such a nice fella, and I was gutted for him. He lives football, it means everything to him. At half-time we had a talk about it and the lads were not going to leave it behind them. They were going to do it for him and they did.”
It was a fantastic team performance and one that their manager was immensely proud of: “We asked them to put their bodies on the line and they literally did that. They worked so hard. We are unbelievably delighted. It’s hard to describe and I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet.”
Cnoc Mhuire built up a big lead but like true champions Cookstown were not going to relinquish their crown without a fight and a late rally meant there was just one point separating the sides in the end. Offaly native Carroll had every faith in his side but feared the worst: “I was frozen with fear. They just kept coming at us. We just worked so hard with 14 men for most of the game.
The last five minutes we just didn’t have anything. We brought off a lad who is a really good player and told him to have a rest because we wanted him again in the last five minutes; to try and recycle the lads so we had fresh legs. They were just exhausted because they gave everything.”
With this competition no longer in existence after this year, Cnoc Mhuire have created history; something that’s not new to this team. Carroll is delighted for what his players have achieved this year: “When we won the Leinster, I knew we were the last school to win that title and now we are the last ever school to win the All-Ireland Vocational Schools competition.
When you think of it like that, it is a tremendous achievement. 40 years of that competition and for our school to be the last ever name on it. The Leinster triumph too and the last name to be on the Leinster Vocational Schools Inter-County Cup; it has been a great year.”