A thrilling, memorable encounter at the Downs GAA club saw Moate Community school produce an incredible comeback to pip St. Mel’s by the narrowest of margins in this afternoon’s Brother Bosco Cup semi final, ensuring the Westmeath school will take their place in the showpiece Leinster schools football final against either Coláiste Choilm or reigning champions Naas CBS on Saturday week.
An 0-11 to 1-3 half-time lead for St. Mel’s was the least that the Longford academy deserved for a wonderful display of slick, efficient attacking football, crowned by nine points from the boot of centre forward Matthew Flynn.
Moate’s comeback was achieved in a very different fashion, as they took a vice-like grip on proceedings in the central third, owning the ball and starving the talented St. Mel’s forwards of the possession they needed to add enough scores to their tally.
Man of the Match and Westmeath senior hurler David O’Reilly was central to that second half effort, but he also played a vital role in the opening half, particularly when Daragh Lowry drove through the heart of the St. Mel’s defence to set up O’Reilly for a close-range goal in the fourth minute.
With a strong wind blowing at their backs, St. Mel’s needed to reply quickly and make their advantage count, and they did exactly that with some slick attacking play.
Matthew Flynn was the man putting his name on the scores, as six of the first seven St. Mel’s points came from dead ball strikes from the Clonguish club man, but their dominance stemmed from great work by Matthew Carey, Andrew Flynn, Ronan Courtney and Jonathan Burke in the centre, with Burke proving himself to be a superb kickout target and a great source of primary possession.
Just when it looked as if Mel’s might open up an insurmountable lead by the break, points from O’Reilly and Eoin Bracken ensured a more manageable 0-11 to 1-3 interval deficit, which was down to just two points after five minutes of the second half.
O’Reilly, Bracken, Donal Shirley and Adam Daly were all immense as Moate completely monopolised possession, eventually hitting the front when Connaire Martin palmed in their second goal with eight minutes to play.
Mel’s rallied again and earned three frees in a row which Flynn converted to level the tie, but a barnstorming 70 metre run from Adam Daly in stoppage time was enough to earn one last chance for Bracken, who calmly split the uprights from 35 metres out to send the midlanders through to a first Leinster final in six years.
: D O’Reilly 1-3 (0-1f), E Bracken 0-5 (0-4f), C Martin 1-0, D Shirley 0-1, T O’Donovan 0-1.
M Flynn 0-12 (0-9f), M Carey 0-2, G Farrelly 0-1.
: J Mitchell; T Gorman, A Keane, C Guinan; A Daly, D Shirley, A Curran; D Lowry, D O’Reilly; C Martin, E Bracken, P McLoughlin; T O’Donovan, C Fox, R Murray.
: D O’Neill for McLoughlin (60), A Murphy for O’Donovan (60+4).
: C Hussey; C Smith, A Donnelly, G Farrelly; C Harte, R Shields, J Connell; M Carey, J Burke; R Courtney, Matthew Flynn, A Flynn; Michael Flynn, H Mulvihill, P Moran.
: J Belton for Mulvihill (h-t), K Basket for Harte (53).
: D Sweeney (Dublin)