The 2007-8 season will always be remembered as one of the most historic in the annals of schools soccer. Never before had all the available provincial A titles been won by a single school …until the boys of St.Mary’s had the perfect season! The reports below give a flavour of the year as it unfolded.
Having already annexed the Connacht minor, junior and senior soccer tiles this season next week sees the turn of the Colleges’ first years as they compete in the Connacht A First Year Soccer final against Presentation Headford.
The opportunity to capture a fourth Connacht title of the season,and emulate the feat last achieved by the colleges teams of 1994, arises on the back of a 1 – 0 victory over St. Josephs College in the Connacht semi-final played in Drom last Thursday afternoon. Having already been well beaten by the Bish in a challenge match earlier this season the Marys boys were not very confident going into the match. However, on the day they performed excellently and resiliently, and indeed probably had the better chances to take the match more convincingly. The match was hotly contested throughout by two very eager teams, with the winning goal eventually being scored by Niall Kineen, coolly slotting a penalty into the Bish net. Indeed Kineen, along with Ruari Lavelle, Osaze Osagie and Dan McArdle have already picked up minor (U-14) medals this season and will be hoping they can add to their tally in Terryland.
St. Marys win fourth Connacht soccer title of the season
St. Marys, Galway 1 Presentation Headford 1
(St. Marys win 5 – 4 on penalties AET)
St. Marys first years captured the Connacht A Soccer title to make it four titles out of four for the season at a resplendent Terryland park on Thursday afternoon last. Having watched the Senior, Junior (U-16), and Minor (U-14) teams win Connacht tiles over the past few weeks the pressure was on these Marys young lads to ensure the winning habit was maintained. And, as was the case in the last two finals, it was certainly not an easy task going once more all the way to penalties.
This match was played in glorious sunshine, in the true manner of sportsmanship, and anyone who had left the affair at half-time would probably have gone away thinking that it was a foregone conclusion that the title would rest in Headford. Their forceful attacking play had Marys on the back foot from the off, the red and black Galway school resorting to last ditch clearances and resilient defence to hold out the determined Headford boys. But, this season there’s something about Marys. In all four previous finals Marys have found themselves under the cosh for the opening period before eventually turning things around. This match was no different.
And so it was extra time. Marys took up where they had left off at the end of normal time, and the first period of extra time was played almost entirely in the Headford half. Despite this there were no clear-cut chances as both sides visibly tired. The second period also belonged to Marys as first Shane Sheridan then Gabriel Darcy, and Niall Kineen went close with shots. With two minutes to go Ruari Lavelle was put through by Osagie but his tired legs couldn’t take him clear of the Headford defender, and the keeper made a fine save.
Inevitably excellent referee, blew the final whistle and the Marys team and supporters had to face the lottery of a penalty shoot out for the third time this year.
Headford shot first, the excellently struck shot flying high into the roof of the Marys net. Niall Kineen matched this effort to equalise, and then the door was opened when the next Headford penalty flew high over the bar. Shane Sheridan scored to put Marys in the driving seat. Headford scored to level and then when the next Marys penalty was brilliantly saved by the keeper the match was levelled again. Headford scored their next shot putting the pressure on substitute Gabriel Darcy who was equal to the task. With the match tied at 3 – 3 Marys keeper McArdle pulled off his first save of the day to leave Gary O’Connell with the chance to finish the match for Marys. Unfortunately the right back’s forceful shot clattered against the crossbar and the match went into sudden death. Headford’s left back scored and then captain McArdle put aside his goalkeeping gloves and almost split the net to level once again. Into the second round of sudden death and the pressure was beginning to tell. McArdle dived acrobatically to his right to save the Headford effort, leaving Marys towering midfielder Osaze Osagie with the unenviable task of scoring to win the match. He kept his head and when his coolly slotted shot hit the corner of the net found himself almost instantly covered in jubilant team-mates.
The Headford team and supporters were understandably devastated but nevertheless went up to receive their runners-up medals from Galway United manager Jeff Kenna with the same decorum and sporting behaviour that had typified the match. Marys captain, Claregalway’s Dan McArdle, along with chief supporter Mark Biggins, then accepted the Connacht First Year Cup from Jeff Kenna, raising it high to signify the achievement of winning four Connacht titles last recorded by the Marys teams of 1994, the year they were born!
St. Marys: Dan McArdle, Gary O’Connell, Joe Healy, Eoin Molloy, Wayne Ward, James Concannon, Osaze Osagie, Ruari Lavelle, Shane Sheridan, Tyrone Lynch, Niall Kineen. Sub used; Gabriel Darcy
St. Mary’s College qualified for their third Connacht A Soccer final of the year on Wednesday afternoon following a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Headford Community School in the U-14 competition. Headford opened proceedings with a flurry of activity, and caused a few moments of uncertainty amongst the Marys defenders, but after weathering this early storm Marys midfielders Shane Coyle and Osaze Osagie soon started to gain control around, and opened up a long period of domination. Despite numerous attacks there was no sign of a break through until Osagie timed his run perfectly to open the scoring just before the half-time break.
The opening of the second half saw Marys continue the pressure on the Headford goal and after some excellent work by centre-forward Tony Ward the ball was finished to the net by David Mooney. Headford battled gamely to overcome this deficit but all their efforts were controlled by the Marys defence. Killian Maughan, Evan Browne and Harry Goulding in particularly fine form, while goalkeeper John Elwood was steady between the posts. With ten minutes to go an excellent free from captain Miles Upton was met superbly by Tony Ward who rattled the Headford net for the third time, thus sealing St. Marys place in the U-14 final. They now hope to emulate the feat of their senior counterparts by bringing another Connacht title back to the college.
Meanwhile the College U-16 team are finalising their preparations for their Connacht Final at 2pm on Thursday. This will take place in the University Grounds in Dangan where they will face local rivals St. Josephs College. St. Mary’s will field four of the victorious Senior side who will be playing in search of their second Connacht medal of the season. Also, next week will see the St. Marys first year soccer team play in their Connacht semi-final
St. Marys College Complete Hat-Trick of Connacht Soccer Titles
St.Marys College, Galway 2
St. Josephs College, Galway 2
(St. Marys win 3-2 on Penalties AET)
For the second time in a week St. Marys College soccer players held their nerve to emerge victorious after a penalty shoot out. This time it was the U-14 team who went down to the wire following an epic struggle against near neighbours St. Josephs, and in doing so joined the College U-16 and U-18 teams as Connacht A champions for this season.
This was a remarkable and enthralling match between two young, enthusiastic and well-balanced teams. It consistently swung from one end of the pitch to the other as both teams sought to dominate, and right up until the final penalty the outcome was in doubt.
The opening twenty minutes were practically controlled by the Bish, who set up their stall as an attacking force from the outset. The St.Marys team during this period seemed to be somewhat overawed by the much physically bigger Bish team, and seemed reluctant to take on their opponents, resorting instead to a valiant rearguard action marshalled superbly by team captain, Oughterard native Myles Upton. The early Bish pressure yielded a succession of corners, one of which led to the first real chance of the match when Bish forward Joey O’Brien, seized on a poor clearance to flash a rasping shot inches over the Marys crossbar.
After fifteen minutes good close control on the edge of the box led to a free for the Bish, however Marys goalkeeper, John Elwood was equal to the task with a fingertip save over the bar. Sergio Nkolovata for the Bish was particularly lively at this stage and it took both Marys defenders Harry Goulding and Evan Browne to keep him under control. After 25 minutes however he managed to escape their shackles and after beating keeper Elwood found that the excellent Marys right back Killian Maughan was in the perfect position to clear his lines. Marys really were under the cosh during this stage of the match, and the general feeling amongst supporters was that one goal for the Bish might open the floodgates. However, in Marys first real foray into their opponents territory, the lively Tony Warde set up right winger Aaron McGinty for a shot at goal and, from a tight angle, he clipped the outside of the Bish post. This seemed to inspire the Marys players somewhat and they strived to maintain their momentum, Warde and midfielder Shane Keogh setting up a number of chances which they failed to capitalise upon.
Seven minutes before half time Bish striker Tom Curran opened the scoring. Marys centre back Upton, in attempting to control a long ball forward, inadvertently handled just outside his box. With the Marys defensive wall in disarray Curran’s powerful shot flashed directly to the net from all of twenty metres. Marys heads never dropped however, and, four minutes later from Keogh’s free kick into the box hesitation from the otherwise excellent Bish keeper Evan Duffy, allowed Marys striker Niall Kineen to pounce for an equaliser. The final attack of the half saw Bish winger Sean Moran send a close in header marginally over the Marys bar.
The second half saw a big change in Marys fortunes. The half-time team talk from effervescent Marys manager Martin Horgan had obviously had a telling effect and the College set about taking the game to their opponents. Within minutes of the opening tricky Marys winger McGinty found himself one on one with Duffy in the Bish goal. However the keeper was very quickly down to smother his shot. Two minutes later rejuvenated Marys midfielder Osaze Osagie, sprinted through the centre of the Bish defence but saw his 20 metre fly inches past Duffy’s right post. Kineen was next to test Duffy with another powerful shot on target but the keeper remained assured behind everything Marys threw at him.
The Bish, despite this period of Marys pressure, were still a dangerous force, and Marys keeper Elwood had to be at his best to tip a dipping shot from Curran over the bar. Neat work from John Evans in midfield led to free on the edge of the box, and from the excellent delivery an unsighted Elwood mistimed his punched clearance, allowing the ball to fall at the feet of Joey O’Brien who made no mistake when rattling the Marys net from close range. With twenty minutes to go Marys had it all to do again. Inisbofin lad Rory Lavelle was introduced and had an immediate impact, beating his opponent on the left wing and shooting powerfully only to see his shot stopped once more by the excellent Duffy. Not to be outdone Elwood in the Marys goal had to be at his best to save bravely from Nkolovata, then almost immediately afterwards from Curran. However, there was to be a sting in the tail, when, with the Bish almost daring to believe they had it won, Marys midfielder Shane Keogh found himself in space and calmly slotted the ball past Duffy to equalise and send the Marys support into raptures of delight. The excellent referee Ger Cahill, blew up within seconds and all settled themselves in for extra-time.
Both teams were visibly tiring as the match progressed and both periods of extra-time, although there were a few half chances for both sides, showed no evidence of the deadlock being broken. So the dreaded lottery of a penalty shoot out was required to settle the best team once more. The Bish shot first but saw Elwood dive excellently to his left to save. Now having the upper hand Marys were unable to capitalise, their first penalty flying high over the bar. The Bish stepped up again but the shot cracked the crossbar and bounced out off the line. Marys then scored their next three, with Evan Brown, Tony Warde and Aaron McGinty all on target, while Curran and Carty for the Bish scored with their attempts. However Elwood was the Marys hero when he once again dived low to save the final Bish penalty, before being surrounded by his jubilant teammates and supporters. The Bish had some excellent players in centre backs Adam Scally, and Paul Carty, while goalkeeper Duffy was excellent throughout. For Marys Aaron McGinty, Killian Maughan and Tony Warde were consistently good throughout the match
After the match team captain Myles Upton received the Umbro Minor Cup from Rob Grealish president of the Connacht branch of the FAIS. Marys now face the Munster champions in the All-Ireland semi-final, at a date yet to be fixed.
St. Marys College capture Connacht U-16 A Soccer title
St.Marys College, Galway 0
St. Josephs College, Galway 0
(AET St.Marys win 5-4 on penalties)
The St. Marys College U-16 soccer team emulated their U-18 counterparts by winning their Connacht soccer title after a hard fought battle with local rivals St. Josephs on Thursday afternoon. This was a titanic struggle between two very determined teams, and perhaps it was fitting that the final outcome was not decided until the final kick of the match. This kick came courtesy of St. Marys centre back Christian Lomboto who stroked his penalty past the hapless Bish keeper, to finally seal the title on a scoreline of 5-4.
In near perfect conditions, and on the wonderfully kept university pitch at Dangan, both teams treated the large crowd to a wonderful spectacle of football. St.Marys started sluggishly, and found themselves under considerable pressure as the Bish sought to make the best of the confusion in the Marys ranks. A bad mistake when trying to clear the ball early on led to the first real chance of the match when St. Josephs forward NAME ran onto a misplaced back pass, rounded the keeper, but then extreme pressure from St.Marys defenders Barry McEntee and James Casserley forced him to shoot into the side netting. This close call inspired the Bish to push on and for a period they controlled the midfield, with some especially composed play from team captain NAME. Marys at this stage were defending resiliently, throwing themselves into tackles, none more so than Eric Holland. Indeed the captain’s never say die was an inspiration to his team and as the half wore on St. Marys came more into the match, eventually forcing the Bish onto the back foot. Incisive running from st. marys wingers Seán Glynn and David Wynne began to open up the Bish defence and from one forceful run to the end line Marys won the first corner of the day. The in-swinging cross was met by St. Marys striker Shane Maughan whose flicked header was cleared off the Bish line in the ensuing scramble. At this juncture St. Marys manager Richie Bell decided that more bite was needed in midfield and introduced John Duane for the unlucky Francis McKeague. Within seconds he latched on to a loose clearance and tested the Bish keeper with a rasping 25m shot. As half-time approached both teams had gotten the measure of each other and the frantic pace of the match settled more into that of a cat and mouse struggle.
The second half opened brightly for St. Marys, who upped the tempo considerably. James Casserly and Barry McEntee were to the fore, gaining a considerable amount of possession and feeding the midfielders with a plentiful supply of ball at every opportunity. Midway through the half a sublime ball into the penalty area from Sean Glynn found the head of Keith Lee and his effort flew inches over the Bish crossbar. Seven minutes later the clearest opportunity of the day fell to David Wynne, when with just the keeper to beat he was unable to get the ball under control, leaving O’Donnell time to smother his effort. Marys continued to drive forward but their efforts were thwarted consistently by the Bish defenders, in particular Tom Curran, Barry McCabe and Chris Clarkson. In midfield Ronan Conlon and Brian Gaffney were instrumental in all of the St. Josephs attacks, while ably supported by skilful centre forward Ebenezer Olayide.
No team were able to make the breakthrough they were looking for, and as extra time loomed the match entered a stalemate situation, with neither team wishing to make a match-costing mistake. Extra time once more left the teams deadlocked and scoreless. During this period John Duane and the tigerish Holland went close for Marys, but despite all efforts the referee blew full time leaving both teams to face the dreaded penalty shoot out. This too was a close affair. St. Josephs shot first but St. Marys, who had changed their goalkeeper for the shoot out, saved the effort. Now having the upper hand they themselves were unable to capitalise when they too missed their first penalty. Nerves were taking over, and when the Bish penalty taker shot high over the bar the door was opened once again. From now on in the standard of penalty taking from both sides was sublime, with neither side missing as the competition went down to the wire. Scorers for the Bish were Mark Murphy, Brian Gaffney and Ronan Conlon, while Sean Glynn, Shane Maughan, Christian Lomboto and goalkeeper Christian Badea all netted for Marys.
St. Marys deserve the plaudits for their victory but in truth both teams excelled. The match was played in the true spirit of sportsmanship, and due credit should go to both squads, as well as their teachers and supporters for the excellent way this important match was conducted. The officials, Pat Barry, Paul McGrath and Tony Geasley allowed the game to flow well and officiated with a minimum of fuss throughout.
After the match, St. Josephs manager Rob Grealish had the unfortunate task of presenting the Umbro Connacht Junior Schools Cup to Eric Holland in his capacity as chairman of the Connacht Schools FAIS. As he quoted himself “ I’m only smiling on the outside, inside I’m heartbroken”.
St. Marys have now emulated the success of their senior counterparts who captured the Connacht U-!8 trophy after a hard fought victory over Summerhill Sligo in March. The next task facing Richie Bell, RonanFaherty and their squad of players is to plot the downfall of the Munster champions in the All-Ireland semi-final next Thursday
St. Marys College, Galway 6
Summerhill College, Sligo 0
St. Marys College Galway made history on Wednesday afternoon when they defeated Summerhill College Sligo in the Connacht Schools U-15 A cup final thus becoming the first School to succeed in winning all five Connacht FAI Schools competitions in the one season. Having previously captured the first year, U-14, U-16 and Senior titles the pressure was on Paul Concannon and Sean Og De Paors charges to come up with the goods.
The match was played at the Mayo and District League’s top class facilities at Milebush Castlebar and despite the inclement weather conditions the pitch’s surface was good enough to have hosted a Champions League final! The Galway school opened brightly, playing a fast flowing brand of football which had their Sligo rivals on the back foot from the start. In the opening quarter the Sligo goalkeeper Valles had to be alert to deal with fine efforts from St. Marys Christian Lomboto and Tony Warde, but he could do nothing to prevent the deadlock being broken on 24 minutes as James Casserley put Warde through to clinically finish to the back of the Sligo net. The dream was on. The lead was no more than Marys deserved as their back four of Shane Gallagher, Barry McEntee, Eoin Walsh and Evan Browne formed an impenetrable line of defence confining the Summerhill strike force of Melvin and Fahy to feeding off scraps.
Marys led by the solitary goal at the interval, but from the restart they upped their game and within ten minutes a mistake from the Sligo net-minder Valles saw Shane Maughan’s half-hit effort slip under his body into the net to double their lead. The wind was most definitely in Marys wings and they now continued to drive their advantage home over the hapless Sligo team. Seven minutes later James Casserley rose unchallenged to head home the third goal from a perfectly flighted Tony Warde free kick. Marys fourth goal was something special for those there to witness it, as Tony Warde won the ball inside the Sligo half, held off the challenges of two defenders and curled a wonderful left-footed shot to the top of the Sligo net from all of 20 yards.
Within moments Warde set up Shane Maughan with a perfectly weighted pass, and with just the keeper to beat he made no mistake. Marys supporters and team were jubilant at this stage and three minutes from the end the rout was complete as James Moran and Aengus O’Curraoin set up Maughan whose Cantonaesque chip left the keeper helpless before clipping the bar on its way to the back of the net. From goalkeeper Dean Bruen to centre-forward Maughan the Marys team performed excellently but it was the match winning performance of Salthill Devon’s Tony Warde that drew plaudits from all present.
The cup was presented to team captain Barry McEntee to the echo of prolonged cheering as the realisation of the fantastic achievement in winning all Connacht five titles began to sink in.