St Malachy's Castlewellan 0-15 Ashbourne CS 0-7
St Malachy's of Castlewellan retained the All-Ireland Vocational Schools Senior 'A' football title this afternoon following an impressive eight-point win over Ashbourne CS at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.
The sides had locked horns in the 2008 semi-final but once again Ashbourne played second fiddle as a more clinical St Malachy’s edged this game throughout.
Backed by Jarlath Branagan, Paul Devlin and Conor Poland who scored ten points between them in last year's final demolition of St Brogan’s, Bandon, Castlewellan’s greater experience came to the fore as they captured a second crown.
The reigning champions led by 0-3 to 0-1 after six-and-a-half minutes thanks to a brace of Branagan frees and an excellent score from Danny Savage who showed great precision from his left boot.
A brace of Liam Tolan points kept Ashbourne in touch but Castlewellan edged into a 0-4 to 0-3 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
One of the few goal chances fell to Castlewellan in the 18th minute but Ashbourne goalkeeper Liam Hogan pulled off a fine save from corner-forward Poland.
A brace of Poland scores and efforts also from Savage and Branagan saw St Malachy’s take a 0-9 to 0-4 interval lead and they failed to falter on the restart.
Gerard McAnulty, Branagan and captain Devlin all kicked points saw Castlewellan broke into an eight-point lead by the 35th minute.
Although Castlewellan had defender Ollie McClean dismissed following a second yellow card seven minutes later, they held their composure until the finish with Ashbourne’s woes compounded following a straight red card for their top-scorer Andrew Tormey in the 44th minute.
Ashbourne never gave up and cut the gap to six points with 11 minutes remaining after midfielder Stephen Kavanagh palmed an effort over a crowded goalmouth for a much-needed score.
Scores, however, were at a premium in the closing 10 minutes with Castlewellan lording possession as Devlin and Savage added points.
Although Gerald McAnulty missed a late goal chance after being gifted an open goalmouth, it mattered little as Castlewellan held enough in reserve to claim an eight-point win.
St Malachy's Castlewellan: M O’Boyle; C Burns, D O’Hanlon, R McDonald; S Tierney, C McClean, O McClean; G McAnulty (0-1), R Laughlin; P McKenny, J Branagan (0-5, 4f), C Morgan (0-1); P Devlin (0-3, 1f), Danny Savage (0-3), C Poland (0-2). Subs: C Regan for Morgan (47); Darren Savage for Danny Savage (59); B Murray for McDonald (60); S Rea for O’Boyle (62); C McCusker for O’Hanlon (63).
Ashbourne CS: L Hogan; D Lawlor, J Fahy, R O’Connor; C Maguire, P Dowling, D Brennan; B Menton, S Cavanaugh (0-1); L Tolan (0-2, 1f), D Coyle, A Tormey (0-4, 3f); M Devine, G Kennedy, A O’Brien. Subs: C O’Sullivan for Tormey (BS 13-17); C O’Sullivan for Devine (HT); I Kavanagh for O’Connor (HT); R O’Connor for Maguire (53)
Referee: Maurice Condon (Waterford).