In what was probably one of the greatest team displays ever produced by a Donegal team, Colaiste na Carraige lifted the Markey Cup in Brewster Park, Enniskillen.
Colaiste na Carraige 3-8
Virginia College 1-10
Aodhan McGinley lifted the cup for the school for the second time in its history, and also picked up the man of the match award. He was excellent, but so were so many of his teammates - Andrew McClean, Cormac Cannon, Jamie McGinley, Pauric Carr, Ryan Gillespie - all excelling on a wonderful day for the school.
Colaiste na Carraige dominated the opening 20 minutes but didn’t punish on the scoreboard with seven first half wides. That was the only negative in a wonderful display.
The much more physical Virginia College got back in the contest thanks to a soft goal on 25 minutes and were really flattered to take a 1-5 to 0-4 lead to the dressing rooms at half-time.
Colaiste na Carraige were the superior team but Conor Doherty just couldn’t his shooting right. He was uncharacteristically off target with two frees and a few other shots from play. He did get the opening point when Pauric Ward was fouled on seven minutes but Brian O’Connell levelled on 13 minutes.
Then Colaiste na Carraige pulled away with Aodhan McGinley with two points, the second after intercepting a free and he could have gone for goal. Ryan Gillespie added a fourther after good work by McGinley and Carrick were deservedly 0-4 to 0-1 ahead with 16 minutes gone.
But slowly in the final ten minutes of the half Virginia got back in the contest with points from Ryan Mannion and Conor Bradley before disaster struck for Colaiste na Carraige. A high ball into the square was not dealt with and ‘keeper Michael Cunningham scooped it off the line but it went straight to Ryan Mannion, who fired to the net.
Worse was to follow as Adam O’Reilly and Sean Brady added points and indeed Virginia missed an easy free on the stroke of half-time.
Colaiste na Carraige were even more determined in the second half and the recovery was led by a massive run by Cormac Cannon, some 80m, before releasing McGinley to reduce the margin to three.
Within three minutes Andrew McClean set up Conor Doherty for a second point and the goal they needed arrived on 36 minutes. A long free from Paddy Byrne broke in the Virginia square and Aodhan McGinley pounced. His shot for goal came back off the underside of the crossbar and Conor Doherty was about to fire home when he was fouled for a penalty. From the spot Aodhan McGinley cooly sent the ‘keeper the wrong way and Carrick were back in front 1-6 to 1-5.
They quickly added two more points with Doherty and Cannon setting up McGinley before Cannon went forward himself and found the range from inside the 45m line.
It got even better on 44 minutes. They had been denied a second goal when Andrew McClean intercepted in the Virginia defence and sent Chris Doogan clear, but his effort was stopped by the ‘keeper, but almost immediately they were through again and Doogan had an effort saved, but this time it fell for Conor Doherty, who made no mistage to leave Carrick 2-8 to 1-5 ahead.
But just like they did against St. Calumba’s, Glenties, Virginia finished very well and dominated the final quarter. They added five points, but the Colaiste na Carraige rearguard were determined that they would not ship a second goal. There were an anxious moment minutes from the end when Virginia were looking for a penalty for a Carrick player touching the ball on the ground.
Then with seconds remaining Colaiste na Carraige broke and Ryan Gillespie found himself in acres of space some 55m from goal. He carried well and his teammate Pauric Cunningham also made up the ground for Gillespie to draw the keeper and unselfishly lay off for Cunningham to plant the ball in the net from two yards and seal a famous win.
The win bridged a gap of 39 years - in 1985 - when Carrick Vocational School won the only other Markey Cup to come to Donegal.
This victory will live long in the memory, not just of those closely associated with it, but with anyone who was in Brewster Park.
Colaiste na Carraige: Michael Cunningham; Christopher Byrne, Jamie J McGinley, Conor Kennedy; Cormac Cannon (0-1), Pauric Ward, Philip Doherty; Padraig Byrne, Ryan Gillespie (0-1); Chris Doogan, Pauric Cunningham (1-0), Andrew McClean; Conor Doherty (0-2,1f), Aodhan McGinley (1-4, 1-0pen), Philip McNern. Sub., Martin Byrne for Doogan 56.
Virginia College: Kealan O’Connell; Pauric O’Connell, Mark Magee, Patrick Gargan; Eoin Somerville, Brian O’Connell, Jason McMahon (0-1); Sean McDermott (0-1), Bryan Magee (0-1); Joey O’Connell, Conor Bradley (0-3,2f), Ryan Mannion (1-2); Adam O’Reilly (0-1), Sean Brady (0-1), Evan Doughty. Subs., James Brady for Doughty ht; Laurence Caffery for Gargan; Daire McEnroe for S Brady, both 38; Cathal Maguire for Mannion 46.
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)