Magnificent Gerald’s seize their chance
St Gerald’s 3-11
St Attracta’s 3-7
FOR sheer excitement, a splendidly appointed James Stephens Park, Ballina was the place to be on Saturday afternoon. Patrons were treated to an absorbing contest in the Connacht Post-Primary Schools Senior ‘A’ final.
In the end, St Gerald’s prevailed, but only after they received a searching test of their credentials from a gallant St Attracta’s side. The standard may have dipped at times, particularly in the area of finishing from both teams, but it compensated with honest endeavour and whole-hearted commitment.
After 13 minutes of this thrill-a-minute match, the underdogs led by 3-2 to 0-1. Very few in the good-sized attendance would have given Gerald’s a chance of surviving at that stage, but survive they did, and in the end, they were deserving winners.
“We kept going and never gave up,” said St Gerald’s manager Daniel Forde afterwards. “I’m happy for the players as they worked hard for this win. Hopefully we can improve further before the All-Ireland semi-final.”
Attracta’s dominated the midfield exchanges early on, as Stephen Connolly and Oisín Kennedy delivered a constant stream of quality ball to an eager and nimble attack that tortured and teased the opposing defence.
After Gerald’s centre forward Michael Plunkett opened the scoring with a pointed free in the first minute, a strong Attracta’s attack forced a Gerald’s defender to commit a foul in the small rectangle. Jason Perry made no mistake from the penalty kick.
Perry tacked on a point a minute later, and then inside two minutes, Attracta’s added two further goals. The first came from Darragh Kilcoyne, while the second was another Perry penalty following a great move between Liam Reilly and Kilcoyne.
Lesser teams would have crumbled, but this Gerald’s side doesn’t bow the knee easily. They upped their performance and began to carry the ball with intent into the strong breeze.
A fine move that started in defence, concluded with Philip Ruddy finding the Attracta’s net. From there to half time, Gerald’s outscored the Tubbercurry side by four points to two, with scores from Ryan Collins, Jarlath O’Malley, and Michael Plunkett (two, including one free). Jason Perry and Brian Morahan replied for Attracta’s, leaving the score at half time 3-4 to 1-6.
Wind-aided Gerald’s took some time to eat into the Sligo school’s lead, as Brian Morahan and Darragh Kilcoyne added on points in reply to one from Michael Plunkett.
Nothing seemed to be going right for Daniel Forde’s men as Attracta’s defended resolutely and looked destined for the title. Then Gerald’s corner back Colum Dravins sauntered forward to kick an inspirational point. This was the spur the Mayo side needed, and Darragh Dunne, Diarmuid Gibbons, and Michael Plunkett (free) added further scores.
This left a single point between the sides with nine minutes left on the clock. The excitement grew in intensity, and when Darragh Kilcoyne responded with a point, it looked like Attracta’s name was on the Aonghus Murphy Cup.
The final minutes were filled with drama as Gerald’s half-back Seán Conlon and Attracta’s magnificent midfielder Stephen were both black-carded. Then, after consulting with an umpire, referee Martin Flaherty sent Gerald’s Robert Comer to the line for a red card offence.
With the game in the balance, Philip Ruddy kicked a superb goal for Gerald’s to edge them a point to the good. The irrepressible corner forward completed his hat-trick in injury time after the Attracta’s defence failed to cut out a strong attack.
For a time, there was some confusion as to whether the goal stood, but it did – much to the relief of the St Gerald’s fans, as they celebrated the school’s second provincial title in a row.
C Mitchell; C Dravins (0-1), P Bourke, S Kelly; D Morrin, M Hall, S Conlon; R Comer, D Gibbons (0-1); R Collins (0-1), M Plunkett (0-6,3f), S McDermott; P Ruddy (3-0), G Dunne (0-1), J O’Malley (0-1).
Subs used: D Cannon for R Collins; J Byrne for J O’Malley; J Maughan for S Conlon (black card).
E McDonagh; P Gorman, E McGuinness, A Kearns; JP Lang, C Gilmartin, P Burke; S Connolly, O Kennedy; B Morahan (0-2), N O’Dowd, N Mullen (0-1); J Perry (2-2, 2-0 pen), L Reilly, D Kilcoyne (1-2).
Subs used: K Gavigan for JP Lang; G Perry for N Mullen; C Doyle for S Connolly (black card).
Referee: M Flaherty (Galway)