In the aftermath of their tremendous achievement in winning back-to-back All-Ireland Vocational Schools Junior ‘A’ Championship titles, the Cnoc Mhuire U-16 footballers faced a significant step up in grade against St. Mary’s, Edenderry and had to settle for second best in the Leinster Schools Junior ‘B’ Final at the Kinnegad grounds on Friday last.
Backboned by four members of the team that won the All-Ireland Colleges Senior ‘A’ Championship title this season, capturing the coveted Hogan Cup, St. Mary’s fielded a strong U-16 outfit in their quest for further honours and with time running out in the first half the Edenderry school had established a commanding 1-10 to 0-2 advantage.
Playing against a difficult breeze, Cnoc Mhuire were making little impact against quality opposition but the Granard school were given a glimmer of hope when Nigel Rabbitte fired home a cracking goal in the fourth minute of first half stoppage time.
That left them trailing by 1-10 to 1-3 at the break with their points coming from David McGivney (two frees) and Rian Brady while one of the St. Mary’s senior players, centre-half-forward Cian McMonagle, got the Edenderry goal in the 25th minute.
The Co Offaly side had another couple of goal chances in the first half with Cnoc Mhuire keeper Gary Carroll producing a point-blank save to keep out a shot from Ciaran Farrell in the 15th minute. There was just no stopping rampant St. Mary’s whose first half points were registered by two other senior players, corner-forward Ruairi McNamee (3) and midfielder Ryan Caffrey (2), with McMonagle (2), Oran Lawton, Mikey Cleere and Glen Doran also shooting over the bar.
Although Cnoc Mhuire made a bright start to the second half with a point from Fionnan O’Reilly, back came St. Mary’s immediately with a brace of scores through the dangermen McMonagle (free) and McNamee to consolidate a tight grip on the game.
But Cnoc Mhuire are made of stern stuff and they went on to enjoy their best spell of the game which yielded 1-2 without reply. Following a couple of excellent points from Sean McKeogh and Nigel Rabbitte, the latter did well to keep the ball in play in creating the opportunity for Sean Sheils to fire home an opportunist goal in the 41st minute to put his side right back into contention, 1-12 to 2-6.
Prior to that crucial score it took a fine save by the St. Mary’s keeper Cian Brereton to prevent Fionnan O’Reilly from finding the back of the net and the Edenderry side then suffered the setback of losing their top forward Ruairi McNamee who was sent-off in the 44th minute after receiving two yellow cards in quick succession.
But St. Mary’s showed a lot of character in refusing to panic and the pressure was lifted following a point apiece from Oran Lawton (free) and Cian McMonagle. The killer blow was then struck in the 53rd minute when a centre from midfielder Daniel Pyke was flicked to the net by full-forward Lawton, who finished the ball past the reserve Cnoc Mhuire keeper Conor Mallon (replacing the injured Gary Carroll for the entire second half) to leave the Edenderry outfit in a comfortable 2-14 to 2-6 lead.
The sides shared six points during the remainder of the game with corner-forward Rian Brady firing over the three scores (two frees) for Cnoc Mhuire while on target for the worthy winners were substitutes Stephen McGlynn and Alex Kenny (free) with Mikey Cleere also shooting over the bar for the superior St. Mary’s side.
CNOC MHUIRE: Gary Carroll (Granard/Ballymore); John Gaffney (Mostrim), Diarmuid Fitzsimons (Mullahoran), Barry McKiernan (Northern Gaels); Aaron Earley (Northern Gaels), Sean McKeogh (Mullahoran, 0-1), Tadhg McGahern (Mullahoran); David McGivney (Northern Gaels, 0-2, frees), Nigel Rabbitte (Northern Gaels, 1-1); Mattie Gorman (Granard/Ballymore), Fionnan O’Reilly (Mullahoran, 0-1), Conor Mallon (Granard/Ballymore); Rian Brady (Northern Gaels, 0-4, two frees), Shane Sheils (Mullahoran, 1-0), Aidan McElligott (Northern Gaels).
Sub used:- Luke Kelly (Mostrim) for G Carroll (injured, half-time); Luke Meehan (Northern Gaels) for J Gaffney (58 mins).
ST. MARY’S: Cian Brereton; Sam Doran, Luke Flynn, Adam Mahon; Ross Mangan, Daire Kennedy, Ian McKeon; Daniel Pyke, Ryan Caffrey (0-2); Mikey Cleere (0-2), Cian McMonagle (1-4, two frees), Glen Doran (0-1); Ciaran Farrell, Oran Lawton (1-2, points from frees), Ruairi McNamee (0-4, one free).
Subs:- Darren Leech for G Doran (49 mins); Stephen McGlynn (0-1) for C Farrell (52 mins); David Maloney for D Pyke (58 mins); Alex Kenny (0-1, free) for S Doran (58 mins); Karl Murphy for R Mangan (60 mins).
Referee: Patrick McNelis (Meath).