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Rice College bring colour and noise

Sport

A GREAT SIGN Rice College, Westport fans saluted the team’s joint manager Shane Conway in their own way last Saturday. Pic: Conor McKeown

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Ger Flanagan

DRUMS, flares, banners and megaphones. Only at a colleges match do you get that wonderful sort of a combination!
Last Saturday afternoon’s Connacht Post-Primary Schools Senior ‘A’ championship final was played against the backdrop of a wonderful atmosphere as Rice College, Westport made history.
They went into their first Senior ‘A’ final as overwhelming underdogs, and at times it felt like the world was against them.
St Attracta’s were no strangers to this stage of the competition – they contested three of the last four championship finals – and their supporters had an extra pep when they arrived in Tuam.
You could hear them coming long before they arrived, as the chants from their ‘Ultras’ echoed around the old stadium before they took their place under the scoreboard.
As the teams warmed up on the wood-chippings surface behind the dressing rooms, the place was already rocking, awaiting the grand arrival of the players on to the field.
Rather hilariously (and by some total accident) the St Attracta’s ‘Ultras’ megaphone tuned into the frequency of the speakers in the stand. Cue pandemonium as the teams warmed up.
“Sligo’s black and white!” boomed through the speakers again and again as the Tubbercurry fans roared their heads off.
There were a few other chants and rhymes too that you probably couldn’t put in print!
You couldn’t imagine Shane Conway and Kevin Keane (who was part of the Rice College management team on the day) were too impressed though as their team soldiered on with their warm-up.
You can only imagine what the Westport coaches were thinking when those same Attracta’s supporters lit two flares as the game was starting, sending a thick cloud of smoke blowing across the goal that Rice College were shooting into!
Visibility was low, but still clear enough to make out the dyed-blond hair sported by St Attracta’s star forward, Red Óg Murphy (who has strong Mayo connections).
Thankfully (and eventually) the Tuam Stadium stewards realised the best way to counteract the megaphone interference was to turn off the speakers. Who would have thought?!
Rice College supporters weren’t found wanting either.
And although their megaphone didn’t link in with the local PA, it did produce an impressive police siren as their flares sent out blue smoke behind the goal where they were stationed.
Later in the afternoon, as the final whistle drew closer, the realisation of what was about to be achieved seemed to set in among the Rice College brigade.
And when it finally sounded, blue smoke engulfed the pitch as flares were cracked and supporters streamed in to meet their heroes.
The Rice College players all gathered in a huddle as a phone call was made to their joint manager, Martin Connolly, as he sat at home rehabilitating following a heart attack last month.
Even in the midst of all the emotion of celebrating their finest hour, the players hadn’t forgotten one of the men who had helped them get there.
We can’t be sure if Mr Connolly was able to make out any actual words on that call as the jubilant teenagers sang and screamed down the phone to him, but you can be sure he got the message!

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