Colaiste Na Carraige are once again celebrating Donegal Vocational Schools championship success following their U-16 final victory over Pobalscoil, Gaoth Dobhair, in a cliffhanger of a county final in Sean MacCumhaill Park, on Friday afternoon.
Colaiste Na Carraige 1-10
Pobalscoil, Gaoth Dobhair 3-3
It may have been close at the finish, with only a point between the teams, but Colaise Na Carraige were the better side. The big difference between the teams was that the winners had a system and played as a unit while Pobalscoil played as individuals. And while they had a number of fine individual performances, they simply were no match for the winners when it came to teamwork.
That is what proved decisive as Colaiste Na Carraige came from four points down at half-time - 0-3 to 2-1. The winners led early on, only to be rocked by two Gaoth Dobhair goals in the closing minutes of the first half.
Gaoth Dobhair did most of the early running, but a lack of accuracy in front of the posts cost them dearly as they had chalked up three wides from good scoring chances inside the opening six minutes.
That was before Conor Doherty with Carrick’s first attach of note, struck for the opening score, with a delightful strike from way out on the right wing on seven minutes
Doherty was again on target on 18 minutes to move his team two in front, in what was a scrappy encounter in difficult underfoot conditions.
Gavin McBride, from a ‘45’, got Gaoth Dobhair up and running on 22 minutes. And the men from North West were in front two minutes later, when Shane Ferry, up in attack from corner back, drove to the Carrick net, after a searing run from just inside his own half by Ciaran Gillespie.
And the Pobalscoil supporters were really rocking one minute later, when Gillespie had the Carrick net bulging for a second time, when he first timed past Michael Cunningham for goal number two and a 2-1 to 0-2 advantage.
Conor Doherty rounded off the half with a 40 metres free, but it was still very much advantage the boys from the North West as they turned around with a four point advantage.
However, it was game on once again, within 50 seconds of the resumption when Paddy Byrne polished off a great move for a Colaiste Na Carraige goal. And when two minutes later Doherty converted from 20 metres, the game was tied up for the first time.
Boosted by their quick fire goal and point Colaiste Na Carraige took a firm grip and despite Doherty being uncharacteristically short from a close in free, they hit the front courtesy of a Pauric O’Neill special on 41 minutes. And just when it seemed the champions-elect were beginning to get the upper hand they were reeling once more when Gavin McBride flicked a Daire O’Baoill strike on goal past Cunningham.
That was on 43 minutes, but Paddy Boyle’s men refused to buckle. Pauric Cunningham, from a free, and Byrne from play, raised white flags to tie up the game one more time, before man of the match Doherty with a brilliant point edged the champions back in front, 1-8 to 3-1, with six minutes of normal time remaining.
While McBride drew Gaoth Dobhair level, Doherty once more stepped up to the plate to stoke over two quick fire points and a two point advantage with the clock ticking.
Gary McFadden, deep in stoppage time, hit a late point as Gaoth Dobhair pressed for a late goal, but in the end Colaiste Na Carraige held out to claim a third U-16 title in four years.
Colaise Na Carraige: Micheal Cunningham; Conor Carr, James McGinley, Christopher Byrne; Philip Doherty, James McGill, Daniel Lyons; Pauric Cunningham (0-1,1f), Paddy Byrne (1-1); Paul Doherty, Conor Doherty (0-7, 3f), Dominic Gallagher; Pauric O’Neill (0-1), Brian O’Donnell, Philip McNern.
Pobalscoil: Sean Coyle; Shane Ferry (1-0), Gary McFadden (0-1), Owen Gallagher; Ciaran McGee, Ryan Kelly, Naoise Boyle; Ciaran Gillespie (1-0), Micheal Carroll; Odhran McFadden, Daire O’Baoill, Joe McFadden; Nial Friel, Gavin McBride (1-2, 1,45, 1f), Ryan Griffin.
Referee: Ian Molloy (Naomh Conaill)
Man of the Match
Colaiste Na Carraige’s Conor Doherty was the game’s top scorer with seven points, with four of them from play. He was his team’s only marksman in the first half scoring all three points and was the real player maker in the opening 30 minutes. He also displayed great leadership and led the attack well in the second half and posted his team’s last three points, all crucial scores, as the champions first came from behind to draw level and then pull away by two in the closing minutes.
Paddy Byrne’s goal within a minute of the restart of the second half followed by a Conor Doherty free three minutes later were big scores. They tied up the game after Colaiste Na Carraige had swapped ends 2-1 to 0-3 down at half-time. But the game took one final turn with Doherty’s converted free from 35 metres to restore Colaiste Na Carraige’s advantage with just two minutes of normal time remaining.
Naomh Conaill official Ian Molloy seemed to make a couple of harsh calls when pulling up a number of Gaoth Dobhair players for overcarrying when it looked that they were the ones that were being fouled.
Colaiste Na Carraige were a little unlucky not to be awarded a penalty in the first half when Paddy Byrne seemed to be denied his shot on a goal with a foot block by Owen Gallagher.
He probably made up for the decision a number of times in the second half and in a close contest they were all critica.