Just when it seemed as if extra-time was going to be required to separate these two evenly balanced sides, David McGivney won the All-Ireland Vocational Schools Junior ‘A’ title for the so committed Cnoc Mhuire U-16 footballers when he landed a brilliantly struck free from a tight angle in the 60th minute of the final against Mayo opponents Davitt College, Castlebar, played at the windswept Padraig Pearses GAA Grounds in Co Roscommon (situated on the outskirts of Ballinasloe) on Saturday last.
ALL IREALND VS JUNIOR A FINAL - CNOC MHUIRE, GRANARD 1-6, DAVITT COLLEGE, CASTLEBAR 0-8
It was no more than the Granard school deserved after having to endure the wrath of some terrible decisions by Roscommon referee Declan Hunt and it proved to be a very frustrating experience indeed for the Cnoc Mhuire players and their supporters as the match official was continually harsh in ruling against the eventual champions in his poor handling of the All-Ireland final that was also spoiled by a strong breeze that blew right across the pitch.
While McGivney got the winning score after producing a powerful performance at centrefield, particularly impressive was tigerish left-half-back Liam Sullivan who was forever in the thick of the action and also registered a couple of points in making a major impact on the game. Sullivan was a source of real inspiration to the entire Cnoc Mhuire defence, with corner-back Killian Goldrick also much to the fore as Davitt College were restricted to just two points from play.
The difference on the scoreboard in the finish was the decisive early goal that was credited to Cnoc Mhuire full-forward Aidan McElligott who got the vital touch in a goalmouth scramble and while the opposing keeper Martin Corcoran made a gallant attempt to keep his net intact the umpires ruled that the ball had crossed the line with just four minutes gone in the game.
It was a terrific start for Cnoc Mhuire but scores were scarce thereafter in the difficult windy conditions and the north Longford school ended up in a slender 1-3 to 0-4 lead at the break with the points coming from Nigel Rabbitte (free, 9 mins), Ciaran Mallon (free, 14 mins) and Liam Sullivan whose speculative long range shot hopped over the bar in the 22nd minute.
The entire Davitt College tally in the first half came from frees converted by left-half-forward Keith Mulchrone, the opener in the 6th minute, and particularly prominent for the Castlebar outfit was No. 13 Diarmuid O’Connor who was posing quite a few problems for the Cnoc Mhuire defence but they stuck to their task admirably in giving very little away.
Both sides were guilty of kicking a number of wides in the scrappy first half and while Davitt College got back on level terms with points from Conor Finnerty and chief marksman Mulchrone (both from play) in the early stages of the second half, Aidan McElligott missed a glorious goal chance for Cnoc Mhuire with five minutes gone on the changeover.
After doing all the hard work in winning the ball and then rounding the opposing keeper, McElligott lost his balance in failing to find the empty net but a close range free was eventually awarded with Ciaran Mallon slotting the ball over the bar to restore the lead for Cnoc Mhuire, 1-4 to 0-6.
Mulchrone then kicked over the equaliser for Davitt College when converting another free in the 39th minute and that was the way it remained until the 50th minute after Cnoc Mhuire centre-half-forward Mallon missed a handy free.
Defender Liam Sullivan cut in from the left to land a marvellous score from a tight angle but it was all square again in the 52nd minute when Keith Mulchrone fired over his sixth point after Davitt College were awarded yet another dubious free by the referee.
But justice was done in the final minute of normal time when David McGivney kept his composure to fire over a pressure point and that was enough to earn Cnoc Mhuire the All-Ireland U-16 title which is a tremendous achievement, to say the least, and team manager James Carroll deserves a lot of credit for this famous success.
CNOC MHUIRE: Gary Carroll (Granard/Ballymore); Killian Goldrick (Ballymachugh), Ryan McGahern (Gowna), Darragh Kiernan (Ballymachugh); Daniel O’ Reilly (Mullahoran), Declan Murphy (Granard/Ballymore), Liam Sullivan (Granard/Ballymore, 0-2); David McGivney (Northern Gaels, 0-1, free), Nigel Rabbitte (Northern Gaels, 0-1, free); Mattie Gorman (Granard/Ballymore), Ciaran Mallon (Granard/Ballymore, 0-2, frees), Michael Cullen (Mullahoran); Rian Brady (Northern Gaels), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels, 1-0), Aodan McFarlane (Ballymachugh).
Subs used:- Mark Kiernan (Ballymachugh) for A McFarlane (47 mins); Fionnan O’Reilly (Mullahoran) for M Gorman (52 mins).
DAVITT COLLEGE: Martin Corcoran; Jarlath Staunton, Sean Staunton, Oran Scully; Ashley Jenson, Paul Corcoran, Shane Flynn; Jamie Ivers, Paul Colleran; Brian Moran, Conor Finnerty (0-1), Keith Mulchrone (0-7, six frees); Diarmuid O’Connor, Darragh Hayes, Gerry Hunt.
Sub used:- Mark Flynn for G Hunt (53 mins).
Referee: Declan Hunt (Roscommon).