Abbey Voc School and Loreto Milford contest for possession in the Donegal senior Schools' final Picture: Thomas Gallagher
It may be one of the oldest cliches in sport but goals do win games and that was so true in this afternoon’s Donegal Vocational Schools’ final.
Abbey VS ………… 4-7
Loreto CS, Milford ....2-10
Abbey Vocational School scored four with Michael Statham, Oisin Reid, Cathal Feeney and Cian Hegarty all finiding the Loreto net.
And they were all crucial scores and they needed every one of them as they ran out three point winners at the end of an absorbing and high quality final played on St Eunan’s second pitch.
Michael Statham struck the first just before half-time to bring the Abbey boys back into a tie that seemed to be slipping away from them.
Statham was the most alert in the Loreto goalmouth when the ball broke from an Ian Campbell ‘45’ that dropped short, to smash through a forest of players to the roof of the net.
That was on 28 minutes and tied up the game on 1-2 each.
Loreto, with Rory O’Donnell and the roving Ciaran Moore, pulling the strings around the middle of the field and Johnny McGroddy really humming on the ’40’, had the better of the game up to that point.
Stephen McDaid capitalised on some poor marking when he was put clean through on goals with a slick pass from Moore to open the game’s scoring with a goal on six minutes.
And while Cian Hegarty and Jamie Crawford responded with pointed frees, Downings ace Johnny McGroddy (who kicked seven points) and Rory O’Donnell (who lorded midfield in the first half) kicked fine long range points.
Loreto led by three points - 1-2 to 0-2 - after 22 minutes and could have been further ahead but for some heroics in defence from Brian Fegan at full-back and Joe Leape at centre half-back.
They also kicked three bad wides in-a-row and had a number of half goal chances during their period of dominance.
Statham’s goal tied it up and Ian Campbell, very much against the run of play, edged Abbey ahead. But a good move ignited by McGroddy ended with Kyle McFadden hammering home Loreto’s second goal in the third minute of injury time.
Loreto led 2-2 to 1-3 at half-time and it was no less than their first half performance deserved.
And while Kyle McFadden extended the Loreto lead out to three within seconds of the restart, Abbey were a rejuvenated side in the second half.
Jamie Crawford and Oisin Reid took a firm grip in the middle of the park and when Reid smashed to the net after a sweeping move the sides were level and game on.
Crawford, from a free, edged the Abbey ahead for the first time - 2-4 to 2-3 - with a mere five minutes gone on the second half clock.
The sides were level twice more with McGroddy and Crawford exchanging points before Alex MacCalmont, seconds after being introduced, set up Cathal Feeney for goal number three and a 3-5 to 2-5 Abbey lead.
That was on 46 minutes and when super sub MacCalmont quickly added a point, all of sudden there was four points between the sides with Abbey in front.
And when Enda O’Hagan pulled off a point blank save to deny Conor Black a third Loreto goal and Daniel Gallagher within seconds raised a white flag at the other end the margin was out to five, 3-7 to 2-5.
With the clock ticking and just a little over seven minutes remaining Loreto refused to throw in the towel. Ronan McGettigan hit a point and McGroddy knocked over four, three of them in-a-row, to tie up the game as the clock crept into injury time to set up a grandstand finish.
And with the momentum with the Milford boys, Abbey broke and Shaun Kennedy released Cian Hegarty for the match winning goal with only seconds left on the clock.
They two teams now advance to play in the Ulster Schools’ Markey Cup with Abbey facing Coleraine and Loreto down to meet St Columb’s, Derry.
Those games are pencilled in for tomorrow week.
ABBEY VS: Enda O'Hagan; Ethan Mangan, Brian Fegan, Aidan McHugh; Daniel Gallagher (0-1), Joe Leape, Richard O'Rourke; Jamie Crawford (0-3,2f), Oisin Reid (1-0); Cathal Feeney (1-0), Michael Statham (1-0), Ian Campbell (0-1); Shay Travers, Cian Hegarty (1-1), Shaun Kennedy. Subs: Eoin Gorrell for E Mangan 35; Alex MacCalmont (0-1) for S Travers 46; Thomas White for C Fegan 53; Odhran Quinn for I Campbell 58.
LORETO, MILFORD: Ryan Graham; Dylan Dorrian, Conor Coll, Padraig McGinty; Ronan Gallagher, Caolan Gallagher, Ross Cullen; Ethan Cullen, Rory O'Donnell (0-1): Conor Black, Johnny McGroddy (0-7,3f), Conor McFadden; Kyle McFadden (1-1), Steve McDaid (1-0), Ciaran Moore. Subs: Aaron Reid for C McFadden h/t; Ronan McGettigan (0-1) for R Gallagher 46; Stephen Black for R Cullen 55.
REFEREE: Martin McKinley