St Joseph’s reach All-Ireland Final

March 10, 2014

The playing of three tough games in a 10 day period could not stop St Joseph’s High School, Crossmaglen from claiming their place in the Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools, Br Edmund Ignatius Rice Cup final on March 22. After capturing the Nolan Cup the Crossmaglen School faced the Ulster Vocational schools’ champions Magherafelt NRC who they defeated 3-8 to 1-11 to set up an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Franciscan College, Gormanston.

On Tuesday evening at St Paul’s, Lurgan, St Joseph’s experienced their hardest game all year as a determined Magherafelt never gave up to the final whistle as the Cross boys showed maturity and composure beyond their years to emerge victorious. Two Callum Kierans goals and points from Kierans, Stephen Morris and Conor Connolly helped St Joseph’s to a 2-3 to 1-4 half-time lead. Magherafelt were soon level after the re-start but after regaining the lead Cross lost corner-back Sean Garvey to injury which then saw young goalkeeper Eoghan McDonnell swop his number one shirt for a devastating spell in the forwards. Eoghan weighed in with two points and set up his captain, Arnus  Dzinkevicius, for what looked to be the clinching score a third goal. Magherafelt cut the deficit to the minimum as the Cross lads defended in numbers and countered with two super points from Johnny McKeever and the left boot of Aaron Duffy, to leave them three up heading into injury time.  Two further points were exchanged, with the final score coming from the returning Jack McArdle.

Would the stoney grey soil underneath an excellent Inniskeen pitch prove fruitful for St.Joseph’s as they faced Leinster champions Franciscan College, Gormanston following a short 3 day turnaround. A strong physical looking Gormanstown played with the aid of a stiff breeze but were immediately put on the back foot as Miceal McCabe pointed a second minute free to put the Ulster champions in front. Impressive centre-back Dylan Brady levelled from a free before midfielder Scott Shier with the first point from play, 4 minutes in, had Gormanston ahead. Two minutes later Morris and Connolly combined to set up McCabe for the game’s first green flag 1-1 to 0-2.  Brady cut the deficit to the minimum with a terrific point and by the tenth minute Cillian Curran, from play had restored parity.

The excellence of full back Shane Farrelly was to the fore as he made a brilliant block to deny Cathal Niall a goal, with Cross sweeping downfield as Morris and Duffy interlinked to set up McCabe for the lead point 1-2 to 0-4 on 13 minutes. Aaron Duffy, a key target man at full forward added to the lead with a great point that was immediately followed by a converted free from Stephen Morris to put a major between the teams 1-4 to 0-4. Half-back Evan Murphy had already raided from deep but this time Murphy carried the ball some 45 years through the Cross defence before powering a shot to the net to level the match. A harmless free awarded to Niall enabled Brady take his total to three points, and an interval lead of 1-5 to 1-4 for Gormanston.

Gormanston shuffled their pack for play against the breeze and they got down to business right away dominating the opening exchanges forcing some stout defending and gaining a couple of “45” but crucially no scores. Indeed it was smart work from Morris who took a short “45” to McKeever, got it back and the sides were level. Duffy, who was causing all sorts of problems was fouled by his opposite number Cian Harrington who picked up a yellow for his troubles and it got worse for him as Morris pointed the free to give St Joseph’s a lead they were never to relinquish some 9 minutes into the second half.

Gormanston, who battled against adversity in the Leinster final to fightback to earn an extra-time victory, were never going to go away that easy and midfielder Shier had the teams level for the fifth time. The elusive McCabe broke through to sensibly fist a point as the stronger legs of the Cross boys, despite all their exertions, began to tell. A sweeping 5 man move ended with Kierans pointing. Moments later a move initiated by full-back Farrelly brought a second goal, as McCabe bore down on goal he unselfishly offloaded to Aaron Duffy who fired past keeper Oisin Berg 2-8 to 1-6 with 15 minutes to go. A 5 point gap looked the ticket at that stage for Cross but they were soon rocked from any complacency by a second Gormanston goal. A quick free from Brady to Mulvany found its way to Murphy whose deflected shot ended up in the net, game on 2-8 to 2-6. A high delivery back into the Cross square from the resulting kick-out from Murphy had danger written all over it until young goalkeeper McDonnell followed up his quarter-final outfield heroics with a superb piece of goalkeeping by laying claim to the high ball way off his goaline, to clear the danger. Fittingly, it was the full forward duo of McCabe and Duffy who tormented their defenders all day who added the next two scores for the Armagh boys. McCabe converted a free following a foul on Connolly with Duffy making it 2-10 to 2-6 with 8 minutes left on the clock.  McCabe took his personal tally to 1-5 with the game’s last point, a sublime effort to underline his undoubted qualities.

It is fitting that almost to the day that St Joseph’s is opened officially 50 years the school has progressed to its first ever All-Ireland football final. Standing in their way will be Connacht champions Our Lady’s, Belmullet. The Mayo school defeated Munster champions Salesian College Pallaskenry by 3-8 to 1-5 at Corofin,Galway

St Joseph’s : Eoghan Mc Donnell, Daniel Cunningham, Shane Farrelly, Conor Traynor, Declan Reel, Fearghal Mackin, Sean óg Irwin, Stephen Morris (0-3),  Arnas Dzinkevicius capt, Jack McArdle, Conor Connolly, Johnny Mc Keever, Callum Kierans (0-1) , Aaron Duffy (1-2), Miceal McCabe (1-5) Subs : Fergal Burns for McArdle, John Rafferty for Dzinkevicius (black card)