Cnoc Mhuire, Granard showed a lot of character and no shortage of spirit in battling back to beat Cork opponents Clonakilty Community College at Sean Treacy Park in Tipperary Town on Saturday last and the Leinster champions can now look forward to a Croke Park appearance in the All-Ireland Vocational Schools Senior ‘A’ Football Championship Final against Holy Trinity College, Cookstown (Tyrone) on Saturday week, April 13th.
Just a solitary point separated the sides when the full-time whistle was eventually blown in this tight contest, much to the sheer delight of the Cnoc Mhuire supporters among the small attendance in the region of 200, and the early goal from Nigel Rabbitte proved to be the decisive score as the north Longford school achieved a magnificent victory.
Winners of the All-Ireland U-16 ‘A’ titles in 2011 and 2012, Cnoc Mhuire were expected to make a major impact at senior level this season and will be quietly confident of crossing the last hurdle despite the obvious tough task against the title holders Holy Trinity College who scored a comprehensive 2-12 to 1-6 win over Davitt College, Castlebar (Mayo) in the other semi-final on Saturday last.
The Cookstown school (coached by former Tyrone great Peter Canavan) are backboned by seven members of the team who crushed the challenge of Gallen Community School, Ferbane 2-18 to 0-7 in last year’s All-Ireland Final and will be extremely hard beaten but Cnoc Mhuire will relish the role of the underdogs in their fierce desire to cause an upset in the eagerly awaited 2013 decider at Croke Park.
Powered by their inspirational captain David McGivney at centrefield, Cnoc Mhuire came out on top against a fancied Clonakilty outfit who were rattled after conceding the goal with just two minutes gone on the clock and trailed by 1-2 to 0-1 approaching the end of the first quarter.
Their dangerous full-forward Ian Falvey blasted the ball over the bar direct from the throw-in when a goal was there for the taking and Cnoc Mhuire had another lucky escape soon after when David McGivney cleared a shot from lively corner-forward Jack O’Mahony off the line.
But the Granard side got a great boost when Nigel Rabbitte finished the ball to the net in a scramble and a couple of cracking points followed from impressive attacker Rian Brady and determined defender Liam Sullivan to really put the pressure on Clonakilty who had the advantage of the stiff breeze in the first half of the All-Ireland semi-final.
Rabbitte and Brady were always a threat in the Cnoc Mhuire forward division throughout the game while Sullivan was much to the fore alongside the also prominent Anthony O’Reilly and Sean McKeogh in a resolute half-back-line who closed down the Clonakilty attack at almost every opportunity.
And when the ball was eventually pumped into the target man Ian Falvey, the Clonakilty No. 14 was met with fierce resistance from the courageous Cnoc Mhuire full-back Diarmuid Fitzsimons who was rock solid in the heart of the defence.
But after squandering a few chances the Munster champions gradually got their act together to fire over five points in a row through O’Mahony, Falvey, Eoin Ryan, Cian Crowley (free) and O’Mahony (free) in a very good spell between the 14th and 26th minutes.
That was putting it up to Cnoc Mhuire but they responded with a well struck point from full-forward Aaron Brady in the 28th minute, which left the sides all square at the break, 1-3 to 0-6. With the aid of the wind in the second half, the Granard side appeared to be in a good position and after wasting a couple of decent chances they regained the lead in the 35th minute with a wonderful point from the excellent David McGivney.
But Clonakilty came storming back and following a fine score from wing back John Whelton in the 37th minute, they missed a goal opportunity when centre-half-back Sean White shot wide. Further points came from Ian Falvey (44 mins) and Jack O’Mahony (from a free in the 51st minute) to leave the Cork outfit leading by 0-9 to 1-4 and looking the likely winners at this stage of the game.
Cnoc Mhuire were guilty of kicking a number of wides in the second half but they kept their composure in refusing to panic and their perseverance was rewarded with excellent points from Rian Brady (52 mins) and Nigel Rabbitte (54 mins) to level matters yet again.
Then a a foul on Aidan McElligott led to Rian Brady converting a free in the 57th minute that proved to be the winning score and while Clonakilty had two chances to snatch a draw, substitute John Paul Maughan hit the upright while Cian Crowley was off target from a free in a tense and exciting finish to this close encounter.
While Cnoc Mhuire went on to squander a couple of good chances in stoppage time, they had done enough to clinch a hard earned victory and great credit must be given to senior team manager James Carroll who has guided the Granard school to the great honour of a place in the All-Ireland Final at Croke Park.
CNOC MHUIRE, GRANARD: 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, 0-1); David McGivney (Northern Gaels, 0-1), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels); Nigel Rabbitte (Northern Gaels, 1-1), Mattie Gorman (Granard/Ballymore), Ciaran Mallon (Granard/Ballymore); Rian Brady (Northern Gaels, 0-3, one free), Aaron Brady (Gowna, 0-1), Fionnan O’Reilly (Mullahoran).
Sub:- Mark Kiernan (Ballymachugh) for F O’Reilly (28 mins).
CLONAKILTY CC: Conor Madden; Colm Sheehy, Adam Davis, Cian O’Donovan; John Whelton (0-1), Sean White, Damien O’Brien; Daniel Nyhan, Cian Crowley (0-1, free); James Clancy, Damien O’Gorman, Eoin Ryan (0-1); Jack O’Mahony (0-3, two frees), Ian Falvey (0-3), Jack Cowhig.
Subs:- John Paul Maughan for E Ryan (half-time); Joseph Sheehan for D O’Brien (54 mins); David Lowney for J Cowhig (56 mins).
Referee: Michael Meade (Limerick).