Two first half goals enabled Coláiste na Carriage to retain the Markey Cup following an all-Donegal final against St Columba’s CS from Glenties in Letterkenny yesterday.
Coláiste na Carraige 3-3
St Columba’s CS, Glenties 1-7
Having lifted the trophy in 1985 - becoming the first Donegal side to win the provincial crown at U-18A Vocational Schools level - it took until last year to repeat the feat.
No side from the county had won the competition in the interim.
Yesterday’s two-point win in the O’Donnell Park sunshine made that adage about waiting at a bus stop spring to mind - you can wait for ages before two buses decide to arrive in quick succession.
But it could’ve been so much different and as the St Columba’s players made their way home on the McGuinness family-owned coaches, they would’ve wondered what might have been.
In Friday’s replayed semi-final, Martin Regan’s St Columba’s had hammered Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair 2-10 to 0-3.
Odhran Molloy scored 1-4 in that semi-final but dislocated a shoulder over the weekend and St Columba’s had to field without their most potent attacker.
As is often the case, the team that impressed in the semi-final fell flat in the final. It took them the guts of 25 minutes to get going.
But when they did finally catch fire, St Columba’s were the better team.
With Coláiste na Carraige bunched in and defending for their lives, St Columba’s, who were just a point down at one stage late in the day, created a number of goal chances.
Looking back, taking points might’ve been an equally effective means of scraping their way back into the contest. Maybe they had more time left than they might’ve appreciated?
But the reason for those inabilities in front of goal - St Columba’s also kicked nine scoreable wides - was a consequence of the tigerish nature of the Coláiste na Carraige rearguard.
And the two goals before the break gave the team managed by Noel Ward something to hold on to.
On 11 minutes, the first goal was scored by Pauric Byrne, who picked up the pieces to bundle the ball home after a raking ball into the square from Daniel Lyons caused consternation in the St Columba’s backline.
Then, just four minutes later, a second goal was posted when Conor Doherty shot crisply past Pauric Gallagher after a pass from Pauric Cunningham sliced the defence in half.
In that first half, Coláiste na Carraige might’ve scored four goals, while, perversely, they only had one point, which was scored by Pauric O’Neill.
Moments after Doherty’s goal, Byrne, who was the most prominent player on the field, almost scored his second of the afternoon but could only roll an effort inches wide of the post.
Then, towards the end of the half, at a stage when St Columba’s were only starting to feel a pulse again, Aaron Doherty trickled a shot wide after being set-up by Conor Doherty.
Three Charlie McGuinness points and a free from Ethan O’Donnell meant at half-time St Columba’s were three points down, 2-1 to 0-4.
They would’ve felt themselves their disadvantage could well have been much worse.
Coláiste na Carraige contained a sprinkling of the U-16 side who went down after extra-time to St Mary’s from Clady 2-15 to 3-8 in the Arthurs Cup final seven days beforehand at Celtic Park in Derry.
Within 11 seconds of the restart, Coláiste na Carraige might’ve conceded a goal but were thankful of their goalkeeper Michale Cunningham making a flying save to deny Eoghan McGettigan, at the concession of a point.
However, just when they seemed to be finally capable of moving through the gears, St Columba’s conceded. Again it was a well crafted and finished goal from Coláiste na Carraige.
Three minutes into the second half, the third goal from Coláiste na Carraige was, in retrospect, a massively important score.
They didn’t know it then but their forwards would be forced to survive on an increasingly low food supply thereafter.
Aaron Doherty looped a two-handed slap over Gallagher following a neat move in which captain Byrne provided the final pass with O’Neill also playing a significant role.
That made the score 3-1 to 0-5 and for many in attendance in the excitable crowd, that looked like that.
Philip McNern’s block from Conor Bonner denied St Columba’s a certain goal and, by and large, Coláiste na Carraige were impressive at defending their opponents’ scoring zone.
It would’ve been a concern for Ward that his team, after Conor Doherty had put them 3-2 to 0-5 in front, were getting pushed farther and father back.
Stefan Boyle and Christian Bonner points gave St Columba’s something of a chance but with six minutes remaining, a goal really engulfed their opportunities.
It came from substitute Senan Boyle, whose effort deflected past Cunningham following a pass from Conor Bonner.
It set up a grandstand finish with St Columba’s just 3-2 to 1-7 down. Conor Doherty, from a rare Coláiste na Carraige forage, squeezed a precise effort just inside the upright to double his side’s lead.
St Columba’s came in waves and waves but were chasing a green flag instead of a couple of white ones.
McNern made another exceptional block to stop, again, Christian Bonner with things so compact a blanket would’ve covered most of the players on the field in the square.
But with their backs to the wall, Coláiste na Carraige’s work ethic couldn’t be faulted. And that’s what saw them over the line for a third Markey Cup.
Twenty-four hours earlier, the all-Monaghan MacLarnon Cup decider ended in an emphatic 4-8 to 0-8 win for Our Lady’s, Castleblayney over Patrician, Carrickmacross at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
With the winners of the two Ulster competitions playing off in the All-Ireland Post Primary Schools B quarter-final, Coláiste na Carraige will face Our Lady’s, Castleblayney, on Saturday at 1pm in Dromore, Co. Tyrone.
Coláiste na Carraige: Michael Cunningham; Daniel Lyons, Seamie McGinley, Gary Molloy; Brian O’Donnell, Philip Doherty, Paul Doherty; Pauric Byrne (1-0), Christopher Byrne; Aaron Doherty (1-0), Pauric Cunningham, Lanty Molloy; Philip McNern, Pauric O’Neill (0-1), Conor Doherty (1-2, 1f). Subs: Conor Carr for A Doherty (60).
St Columba’s CS, Glenties: Pauric Gallagher; Joe Melly, John Ross Molloy, Cathal McDonnell; JD Boyle, Christian Bonner (0-1), Conor Bonner; Charlie McGuinness (0-3, 2f), John McDyre; Eoghan McGettigan (0-1), Stefan Boyle (0-1), Eathan O’Donnell (0-1, 1f); Paul McGuinness, Ciaran Gallagher, Sean McMonagle. Sub: Senan Boyle (0-1) for P McGuinness (51), Logan Quinn for Melly (56)
Referee: Ryan Walsh.