Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, survived a stunning comeback from Ashbourne Community School to edge out a thrilling All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools SBFC semi-final at Waterford IT on Saturday.
An Anthony Darmody penalty and an exquisite lob from 2018 Kerry minor Dan Murphy helped the Kerry side to a 2-7 to 0-3 lead at the break, but their trainer David McCarthy was expecting a second-half comeback from their Meath opponents.
“Ashbourne showed why they were Leinster Champions and they troubled us in the second-half when they ran at us with their physicality. We didn’t make it easy for ourselves, but the lads just stuck at it and got us through in the end. I know it was an entertaining game for neutrals, but for us it was anything but,” said McCarthy.
Ashbourne were a different animal on the restart and had the ball in the net within 20 seconds through the lively Jack O’Connor. O’Connor then set up Darragh O’Sullivan for their second in the 42nd minute and Dawson Devoy had their third to make it 2-9 to 3-5 after 45 minutes. Devoy converted a penalty six minutes later to push his side ahead for the first time (4-5 to 2-10) and all the momentum was with the Meath men.
Their goalkeeper Ethan Tormey denied Rathmore pair Sean O’Keeffe and sub Aaron Cronin at the other end, but Rathmore kept their cool and points from goalkeeper Ian O’Connor (45) along with efforts from Darmody and Knocknagree’s Denis O’Connor secured victory.
Alan Dineen and another All-Ireland MFC medal winner Owen Fitzgerald were immense for the victors in defence as McCarthy’s thoughts started to turn to Croke Park.
“We looked at the example of Pobalscoil Corcha Dhuibhne, a similar sized school to ours and the success they are having, as something to follow. Our experience against them in the O’Sullivan Cup final in Kerry, as well as playing schools like St Brendans College and Tralee CBS in it, helped us develop towards reaching Croke Park.”
They await the winners of Wednesday night’s semi-final between St Patrick’s Grammar School (Down) and Roscommon CBS, with the final fixed for Saturday, April 6.
Scorers for SPSL Rathmore:
A Darmody (1-3, 1f), D O’Connor (0-5), D Murphy (1-0), C Ryan (0-3, 1f), D Dineen (0-2, 2f) and I O’Connor (0- 1, 1‘45’)
Scorers for Ashbourne CS:
D Devoy (2-0, 1p), J O’Connor (1-3, 2f), D O’Sullivan (1-0), D Moriarty and L Corry (0-1 each).
I O’Connor; P Brosnan, A Dineen, D Cronin; E O’Rahilly, O Fitzgerald, Paul O’Leary; S O’Keeffe, R Collins; A Darmody, D Murphy, D Rahilly; C Ryan, D Dineen, D O’Connor.
J Darmody for D Dineen (41), A Cronin for C Ryan (45) and C Ryan for Cronin (49).
E Tormey; D Carr, B Dignam, L Barrett; C Hegarty, C Harford, N Hand; J Byrne, K Hogan; J O’Connor, J Browne; D Moriarty, D O’Sullivan, L Corry; D Devoy.
E Quinn for D Carr (26), S Kinsella for J Browne (41) and R Jones for Hand (58).
J Hickey (Carlow)