Ard Scoil just about merited their place in next Wednesday’s final against Crescent Comprehensive but they made heavy weather of it, and were lucky to avoid extra-time when a penalty in the dying minutes by Castletroy replacement full-back Stephen Power drifted inches wide.
The winners had a very definite edge in the physicality stakes and in number eight Paul Obande they had the outstanding player on view. He received excellent support from second-rows Frank Bradshaw-Ryan and Daniel Wixted while Robbie Deegan was a real livewire at scrum-half.
However, Ard Scoil failed to capitalise on territorial advantage in a somewhat drab first half and they certainly should have been more than a Stephen Fitzgerald penalty ahead at the interval. The initiative switched in Castletroy’s favour immediately on the turnover when Obande was yellow carded by referee Shaun Curry, and Castletroy lifted their level of performance quite appreciably.
Flankers Pat O’Kane and Ronan Murphy really came into their own and tight-head prop Jack Tiernan also made his presence felt as the tempo and standard of play rose considerably. With Rory Cunningham shining at the base of the scrum, it came as no surprise when full-back Conor Linehan levelled the scoring with a Castletroy penalty after 38 minutes.
With Obande’s return, Ard Scoil came again and some powerful running by Joe Cannon and William Leonard led to the decisive penalty calmly slotted by Fitzgerald.
However, he missed with another shot at goal that might have put the issue beyond doubt and when Castletroy launched a powerful late assault, a high tackle led to a penalty from 35 metres that was entrusted to Stephen Power, who had only just come into the game. He struck the kick perfectly and the officials deliberated for a moment or two before declaring it had gone outside the upright.
So Ard Scoil escaped and it was little wonder that Obande was the one their delighted fans chose to carry off the pitch at the finish. He looks to have a very bright future in the game.
B Moriarty; J Walshe, W Leonard, S Fenton, O Lyons; S Fitzgerald, R Deegan; K Brown, K Bracken, J O’Halloran, F Bradshaw-Ryan, D Wixted, J Cannon, J O’Halloran, P Obande.
C Linehan; J Fox, C Malone, P Butler, R Joyce; M McCarthy, R Cunningham; C Humphreys, R Sweeney capt, J Tiernan, J O’Neill, R Larby, P O’Kane, D Kennedy, R Murphy.
Replacements: S Power for Linehan (51); E Fitzgerald and J Deegan for Humphreys and Tiernan (57).
Referee: S Curry (MAR)