St Eunan’s Collage won the Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup for the fifth time with a dramatic win over neighbours Coláistí Inis Eoghain at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
St Eunan’s College 1-7
Coláistí Inis Eoghain 1-5
Neil Gordon’s side added to their previous successes in 1968, 1979, 2000 and 2007 after Daire McDaid from Termon showed nerves of steel to seal the trophy when he steered home a 68th minute penalty.
St Eunan’s, in the regulation 60 minutes, actually were only ever in front for five minutes - the 90 seconds after McDaid’s penalty and a brief three-and-a-bit-minute spell around from 41st minute.
It was still, though, a deserved win from the more balanced team on the day, despite suffering a nightmare start.
Fifty-seven seconds is all it took for a spectacular opening when Darach O’Connor, who played in the final 11 minutes in Donegal’s ill-fated Allianz League Division Two fixture against Down in Newry less than 24 hours earlier, smashed Coláistí Inis Eoghain ahead with a goal.
The centre-forward played a neat give-and-go with John Campbell and only had his mind set on one thing as he burst with intent. O’Connor blasted below Shaun Patton in the St Eunan’s goal.
In a frenetic opening, before the clock had even struck two minutes, Coalan McGonagle then burst through the St Eunan’s defence only to drag his shot wide when he could see the white in Patton’s eyes. It was a chance.
Letterkenny side St Eunan’s, fortunate not be trailing by six points, opted to fight fire with fire. Niall O’Donnell made a beeline at goal and his shot was, whether purposely or not, blocked from hitting the back of the net by Jack O’Loughlin. Three minutes hadn’t even been played.
Campbell then pointed to edge Coláistí Inis Eoghain into an early four-point lead when St Eunan’s were still stuck in their pyjamas so to speak.
St Eunan’s, however, felt their way into the match rather than grabbing it by the scruff of the neck. The explosiveness was at a lull but there was still a dust in the air. Sean Hume fired over two frees by the 14th minute to halve their arrears before David Tyrell then took it down to the minimum.
Having made such a promising opening, Coláistí Inis Eoghain failed to build on that but still went in ahead at the interval ahead, 1-2 to 0-4, after Kevin McLaughlin knocked over a free before Jordan McBride scored the point of the half from long range for St Eunan’s.
Gordon was chasing his third title as manager. In 2000, the same St Patrick’s weekend as Brian O’Driscoll announced himself to the world stage with a hat-trick of tries in Ireland’s 27-15 RBS Six Nations win at the Stade de France, Colm McFadden fired 1-8 in the 1-11 to 1-9 MacLarnon Cup final win over St Columb’s from Derry.
That afternoon at Casement Park, St Eunan’s trailed till McFadden rifled in what proved to be a match-wining goal with less than two minutes to go. So, on the St Patrick’s weekend when Ireland won in Paris for only the second time in 42 years and O’Driscoll signed offa glittering international career, McFadden - now a maths teacher at St Eunan’s - and Gordon were praying for a repeat.
Coláistí Inis Eoghain lost Danny Monagle, their right-corner-back, to a black card three minutes into the second half for blocking off McDaid as St Eunan’s continued to tighten the nut. McDaid levelled things on 38 minutes before Hume - who had missed eight particularly difficult free-kicks, popped over from play to give his team the lead for the first time, 0-6 to 1-2.
At that stage, the tide seemed to have turned against Coláistí Inis Eoghain, who hadn’t scored in 39 minutes with the closest they came when Patton saved with his knees from Tony McCleneghan midway through the first half.
Conor Morrison was doing a fine marking job on O’Connor, while Conall O’Boyle was similarly impressive as the looser defender. Sean Noonan’s troops looked to have lost their way.
But their fight - in their first year in the competition - was admirable. Kevin McLaughlin had no right to swing over a free from the stand side on the 13-metre line but he did to perfection. Even the pot was melting at this stage.
Campbell then posted another pointed free, from a more conventional angle but well-taken nonetheless. Coláistí Inis Eoghain were 1-5 to 0-6 in front with nine minutes to go. And that’s the way it stayed until the dying embers when Eugene McConnell awarded St Eunan’s a penalty in the 68th minute when Niall O’Donnell was clipped by Sam Doherty. All eyes were on McDaid.
With the pressure huge, McDaid calmly slotted the penalty past Jordan McLaughlin to the delight of the travelling support from the Cathedral Town.
Coláistí Inis Eoghain pressed and pressed for an equalising point that would’ve take the contest to extra-time. St Eunan’s, with everyone bar Niall O’Donnell back in their own half, defended with discipline so as not to concede a free.
They snuffed out an attack that went through the phases so to speak and by the fifth of the three minutes of injury time and McDaid fed Niall O’Donnell, who popped over the insurance point with virtually the last kick of the match. Minutes later, his brother Conor was the first man on the steps. As the St Eunan’s captain raised the MacLarnon Cup in the air, it was clear that his school’s future had finally caught up with its past.
St Eunan’s College: Shaun Patton; Conor Morrison, Darragh McWalters, Conall O’Boyle; Daire McMonagle, Conor O’Donnell, Sean McDonagh; Jordan McBride (0-1), Daniel Clarke; Cormac Callaghan, David Tyrrell (0-1), Oisin Carr, Niall O’Donnell(0-1), Sean Hume (0-3, 2f), Daire McDaid (1-1, 1-0 pen). Subs: Michael Miller for Callaghan (51), Rory Carr for Hume (53), Gillespie for Miller (55)
Coláistí Inis Eoghain: Jordan McLaughlin; Danny Monagle, Jack O’Loughlin, Stephen O’Donnell; Gary Doherty, Tony McClenaghan, Sam Doherty; Caolan McGonagle, Feargal Doherty; Aidan McLaughlin, Darach O’Connor (1-0), Sean McHugh; John Campbell (0-2, 1f), Kevin McLaughlin (0-3, 2f), Shane McLaughlin. Subs: Mark Coyle for McLaughlin (black card 33), Ultan Doherty for A McLaughlin (43)
Referee: Eugene McConnell (Tyrone).