Friday, 25 March 2011 10:16
The final whistle never sounded as shrill nor was its arrival less welcomed by the players and supporters of Davitt College at Padraig Pearses, Ballinasloe, on Saturday. Devastation and heartbreak were the emotions etched on the faces of a brave Davitt College side who took it so far
with Granard but ultimately came up just short in this All-Ireland Junior final, which may have fallen down in terms of quality but amply compensated in terms of drama and excitement.
It was always going to take something exceptional and inspirational to swing a match that looked destined for extra time and, in the end, it was the Longford and Leinster champions who went to the well for one last sup and found the winner, a late point from David McGuivney sealing victory.
It was a cruel and crushing blow for the Mayo and the Connaught champions, who had dispatched the holders from Cork on route to the final and had hauled themselves back into the game after a conceding a goal after just four minutes.
By half time just two points separated the sides – 1-3 to 0-4 – and inside three minutes of the second half Davitt College had pulled upsides, Conor Finnerty, with a terrific effort from a very tight angle, and Keith Mulchrone, the man whose freetaking kept Davitt College in the game, tieing matters with his only score from play.
After this the game went on a rollercoaster of a journey. Both sides had chances to hit the front, and Granard in particular will wonder how they missed a great goal scoring opportunity when their towering full-forward had rounded Martin Corcoran in goal only to see his tamely struck shot just cleared off the line in the nick of time by Oran Scully.
The drama around the goalmouth presented Granard with a free to go in front again but Mulchrone pulled out another ace to tie the game at 0-7 to 1-4 entering the final straight.
Again chances went a-begging. Fouls became very frequent, neither team wanted to lose, and for a while it did look like it was going to be Davitt College's day. But they failed in the finishing department once too often, Mulchrone always their mainstay with his seven points.
With nine minutes remaining Granard were in front again, their impressive number seven, Liam O'Sullivan, on target from play, but the Castlebar school had a great chance to bag a goal of their own, or at least a point, when Conor Finnerty made a wonderful interception only to see his effort screw off his boot and wide of the mark.
With the talented Diarmuid O'Connor trying his level best to swing it for Davitt College – the Ballintubber man was always well marked but played a pivotal role in keeping his side in the game – they never threw in the towel.
Davitt College were not done yet and when Mulchrone landed another point to level matters once more it seemed the game was destined for extra time. As the clocked ticked towards the 60-minute mark it was Granard who pulled an ace from the pack, and although Davitt College did have two more attacks to tie matters again, the resoluteness of that Granard defence was one of the main reasons why they are All-Ireland champions.
Davitt College put up a brave show, particularly having conceded such an early goal into what was a strong wind when a bobbling ball was deflected to the net by Darragh Hayes. It was that score which was to ultimately leave them chasing this game, but they did give it one hell of a shot.
Cnoc Mhuire, Granard 1-6
Davitt College, Castlebar 0-8
Scorers for Davitt College: K. Mulchrone 0-7 (6f), C. Finnerty 0-1.
Davitt College: Martin Corcoran, Jarlath Staunton, Sean Staunton, Oran Scully, Ashley Jenson, Paul Corcoran, Shane Flynn, Jamie Ivers, Paul Colleran, Brian Moran, Conor Finnerty, Keith Mulchrone, Diarmuid O'Connor, Darragh Hayes, Gerry Hunt.
Sub used: Mark Flynn for Hunt.
Referee: D. Hunt (Roscommon).