Moate Win Thriller
Leinster GAA Br Bosco Cup SF “A” Semi-final
MOATE CS 2-10 ST. MEL’S COLLEGE 0-15
Kevin Egan at The Downs GAA Club
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 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.
With a strong wind blowing down the ground of the superbly appointed venue just outside Mullingar, St. Mel’s needed to hit the ground running and make their advantage count, and they did exactly that with some slick attacking play that yielded a string of dead ball scoring chances; but only after Moate gave themselves a huge boost through a David O’Reilly goal with just three minutes gone.
O’Reilly’s midfield partner Daragh Lowry opened up the St. Mel’s defence with an incisive drive down the centre and he set up the Rosemount player, who attempted to place a low shot inside Caolan Hussey’s near post. Luck certainly favoured O’Reilly as the ball rebounded off the post and then deflected off Hussey and back over the goal-line, just before Adam Donnelly could clear the danger.
It was a score that Moate badly needed, as St. Mel’s didn’t break stride, and were soon back in front. 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.
A 30 metre strike from O’Reilly after 12 minutes kept Moate barely afloat, but St. Mel’s were striking the ball crisply, creating good high-percentage shooting chances, and when Ronan Courtney picked up a scrappy breaking ball in the middle third to set up Matthew Flynn for a chance from 40 metres out, another outstanding finish made it 0-9 to 1-1. With just under ten minutes to go before the break, Moate were in danger of leaving themselves with too much to do over the course of the second half.
Their performance in the closing stages of that first half was to prove crucial, with Donal Shirley winning a great ball to set up Eoin Bracken, and O’Reilly knocking over another, in between majestic scores from Flynn and Gavin Farrelly.
Speaking after the game, Moate CS manager Niall Daly referred to how a five-point lead wasn’t irretrievable, as long as they set the tone by getting on the front foot immediately, and they did exactly that, striking the first three points to get their comeback up and running. There was a complete change of fortunes around the middle, where David O’Reilly now operated as a deep-lying centre forward, with Daragh Lowry, Pádraig McLoughlin, Aodhán Curran and Adam Daly all getting through a world of work in the middle.
A well-worked score from Matthew Carey after 42 minutes was quickly cancelled out by an Eoin Bracken free, while O’Reilly – a member of the Westmeath senior hurling panel – was now using his physical presence and his power under a high ball to win frees and create scoring chances, including one free that he converted himself from the right corner to tie up the game after 49 minutes.
Similar to their previous outing with St. Peter’s, the one flaw with Moate here was their failure to execute goal chances – Donal Shirly had one ground shot brilliantly blocked by Caolán Hussey while Tiernan O’Donovan should have set Ronan Murray up with a tap in, but his pass flew a foot too high and forced the Moate All Whites player to turn back away from goal.
However with eight minutes to play, they finally made the breakthough, with Conaire Martin adding the final touch from close range after O’Donovan kept Murray’s high, hanging shot in play by batting it back across the goalmouth.
There was to be another kick in Mel’s, as with their championship lives on the line, they drove forward to win three frees, each of them easily converted by Flynn, leaving the game deadlocked at the start of injury time.
Enter Adam Daly, the Ballycumber wing back who was introduced to the starting team after coming off the bench in previous outings. He picked up a turnover ball and outsprinted two chasing St. Mel’s players to set up possession inside the Mel’s 45m line. A quick pass to Lowry forced St. Mel’s to drag the Moate club man down, and Eoin Bracken duly showed nerves of steel to convert the free and edge Moate CS back in front.
There was to be one last piece of drama as Mel’s piled on the pressure, winning a free from 40 metres out after a minute of working the ball over and back the forward line, in a bid to prize an opening. With the wind in his face however, Flynn had to force the free and didn’t quite catch it cleanly, allowing Moate to scoop up possession and clear their lines one last, crucial, time.
Scorers for Moate CS: David O’Reilly 1-3 (0-1f), Eoin Bracken 0-5 (0-4f), Conaire Martin 1-0, Donal Shirley 0-1, Tiernan O’Donovan 0-1.
Scorers for St. Mel’s College: Matthew Flynn 0-12 (0-9f), Matthew Carey 0-2, Gavin Farrelly 0-1.
Moate CS: James Mitchell; Tom Gorman, Adam Keane, Cathal Guinan; Adam Daly, Donal Shirley, Aodhán Curran; Daragh Lowry, David O’Reilly; Conaire Martin, Eoin Bracken, Padraig McLoughlin; Tiernan O’Donovan, Conor Fox, Ronan Murray.
Subs: Dean O’Neill for McLoughlin (60), Aaron Murphy for O’Donovan (60+4).
St. Mel’s College: Caolan Hussey; Conor Smith, Adam Donnelly, Gavin Farrelly; Cormac Harte, Ross Shields, James Connell; Matthew Carey, Jonathan Burke; Ronan Courtney, Matthew Flynn, Andrew Flynn; Michael Flynn, Harry Mulvihill, Paddy Moran.
Subs: Jack Belton for Mulvihill (half-time), Kevin Basket for Harte (53).
Referee: David Sweeney (Dublin)