Abbey Vocational School ended a 21 year wait with their one point McDevitt Cup semi-final victory over St. Mary’s College, Clady, in a high quality encounter on Friday, in Glenmornan, Tyrone.
Abbey VS 2-10
St. Mary’s College 2-9
Top scorer Jack Keaney and his teammates can now walk in the footsteps of the team of 1992, the only other team from the school to reach the McDevitt final. To date, Abbey are the only Donegal school to have won the McDevitt Cup.
In what was a right good game of football, Abbey got off to a flyer with two goals in the opening ten minutes and they led at one stage by seven points in the first half.
But the Donegal boys were put to the pin of their collar in the second half, as the Oak Leaf champions stormed back into the game in the second period. Indeed by the final whistle, St. Mary’s were rueing at least one good goal chance in the middle of the half.
While St. Mary’s did the early pressing, Keaney got Abbey off to a flyer when he drove home the game’s first score, a goal from the penalty spot after Eoin Slevin was fouled in the St. Mary’s large rectangle.
That was on three minutes, and it most definitely settled Abbey nerves. Playing with the aid of a stiffish breeze and Thomas O’Grady lording midfield, Abbey had raced into a 2-2 to 0-1 lead by the 11th minute.
Lorcan Spear, who hit 1-3 of St. Mary’s total, kicked a delightful point on six minutes before Keaney converted from 40 metres and then interepted a short St. Mary’s kick out before off oading to Neil Ward who made no mistake from ten yards and goal number two. While Ronan Kelly (2) and Spear responded with points as St. Mary’s enjoyed a good ten minute spell to reduce the gap to two points, the margin was out to seven for the first time courtesy of Keaney - a neat one two with Shaun Meehan - Thomas Gallagher and Ward.
However, it was back to four again when Damon Gallagher got on the end of a long free that dropped short to scramble past Dan Meehan to leave it 2-5 to 1-4 at half-time.
Thomas McGowan got the scoreboard clicking within 50 seconds of the restart when he polished off a sweeping Abbey move.
But just over a minute later St. Mary’s were back in the tie, when Spear hit the right corner of Meehan’s net from the penalty spot after John Relihan’s foot block on James McPeake.
But Abbey, just two in front, stepped up to the mark again and with Keaney, O’Grady and Slevin - who played in a withdrawn role in the second half - orchestrating, Neil Ward got on the end of a Keaney delivery and Peadar Mogan charged forward to split the St. Mary’s posts to restore a four point margin once more.
James McPeake and Ward traded scores and second half substitute, Paul Cassidy, blasted wide with a goal at his mercy. St. Mary’s, who had taken a grip around midfield, hit three points - Kelly, Spear and Stephen Bradley all finding the range - to make it a one point game, 2-9 to 2-8, with six minutes remaining.
With the tension reaching fever pitch, Spear fluffed a glorious chance for an equaliser before Keaney converted from 35 metres to restore Abbey’s two point advantage with normal time up.
St. Mary’s had one last chance but Kelly drove over from a 20 metres free much to the relief of the Abbey boys and their supporters.
Abbey now face St. Paul’s of Lurgan, in the final on March 6th. The game has been fixed for the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
Abbey VS: Dan Meehan; Michael Carr, Aaron McCrea, Colm McDonnell; John Relihan, Peadar Mogan (0-1), Michael Breslin; Neil Ward (1-3), Thomas O’Grady; Thomas Gallagher (0-1), Jack Keaney (1-4, 1-0 pen, 2f), Thomas McGowan (0-1); Conor Gavigan, Shaun Meehan, Eoin Slevin. Subs: Gerard Byrne for T. McGowan (50); Jamie Burke for M. Carr (57).
St. Mary’s: Darragh Lee; Jarlath Birt, Anton Neeson, Brian Lewis; John Lewis, Oisin McGuickin, Fergal Kane; Oran Quinn, Conall Shaw; Conor McGee, Ronan Kelly (0-4,1f), Damon Gallagher (1-0); Stephen Bradley (0-1), James McPeake (0-1), Lorcan Spear (1-3, 1-0 penalty). Subs: Paul Cassidy for J. Lewis (38); Oisin McCann for B. Lewis (55).
Referee: S McNamee (Tyrone)
Man of the match
Jackey Keaney scored 1-4 and found Neil Ward for Abbey’s second goal after intercepting a short St. Mary’s kick-out. He was the Abbey playmaker throughout as he prodded and sprayed the ball around and gets the nod for man of the match. But he was given a run for his money by his team mates Neil Ward, Thomas O’Grady, Peadar Mogan and Aaron McCrea, who was simply outstanding at full-back.
Lorcan Spear, Ronan Kelly, Oisin Quinn and Anton Neeson were the standout men for St. Mary’s.
Abbey’s good start and two goals in the opening ten minutes laid the foundation for the win. But the ultimate turning point was the points early in the second half from Neil Ward and Peadar Mogan, in response to Spear’s 32nd minute penalty that brought St. Mary’s right back into the tie and just two points adrift.
There was no great argument from either side for the two penalties, one in each half. as both were fully merited. And while Stephen McNamee got one or two calls wrong, overall he got most of them right and none of his calls had a bearing on the outcome.