Slane takes the reins as St Malachy’s go the ex­tra mile

Belfast Telegraph - School's Cup - - SCHOOLS’ CUP FINALS 2019 - Gareth Hanna

IF you want some­thing done prop­erly, you’re just as well do­ing it your­self.

That was the at­ti­tude of St Malachy’s hero Padraig Slane in his side’s Danske Bank Schools’ Cup vic­tory at Seav­iew yes­ter­day.

The Cliftonvil­le winger put in a man of the match per­for­mance as he set up both of his Reds team­mate Paul Scul­lion’s goals and net­ted him­self to se­cure a 3-1 ex­tra-time vic­tory over Belfast ri­vals De La Salle.

In a game dom­i­nated al­most from start to fin­ish by the even­tual win­ners, they were forced into ex­tra-time by Conal McDon­ald’s first-half equaliser.

Even when De La Salle went down to 10 men be­fore the end of nor­mal time thanks to the dis­missal of Ro­nan Hamill — an­other Cliftonvil­le player — his team-mates held out un­til the sec­ond pe­riod of ex­tra-time, largely thanks to in­spi­ra­tional de­fender Pearse Smyth.

How­ever, af­ter St Malachy’s had missed a spate of chances laid on by Slane (above), he took mat­ters into his own hands by round­ing goal­keeper Conor Mur­phy and slot­ting home the long-awaited goal be­fore lay­ing a clincher on a plate.

“We thought it wasn’t our day with the amount of chances we missed but we kept go­ing and

go­ing with our team spirit and we got the goals in the end,” said Slane.

“I just knocked the ball round the keeper and you don’t want to know what was go­ing through my head. I thought I was go­ing to put it wide but luck­ily enough it went in.

“It’s not about me scor­ing the goal, it’s a team ef­fort. We’re one as a unit. We’ve won the Belfast Cup a few times but never the North­ern Ire­land Cup. We al­ways wanted it and now we’re over the moon.”

St Malachy’s su­pe­ri­or­ity was ev­i­dent dur­ing the first-half, when Slane’s pin­point pass­ing threat­ened to pick holes in the De La Salle back line.

It did just that four min­utes be­fore the break as the winger seized on Niall Mc­Daid’s pass down the left wing to curl a cross on to the boot of Scul­lion, who did the rest with a cool fin­ish be­low on­rush­ing goal­keeper Mur­phy.

Fast for­ward five min­utes and St Malachy’s were puff­ing out their cheeks in re­lief, grate­ful to be go­ing in on level terms.

McDon­ald had found the equaliser in in­jury-time, blast­ing home an un­stop­pable ef­fort af­ter find­ing an inch of space in the box.

And from the restart, his side went straight on the of­fen­sive, Donal Rocks’ header across goal al­most bun­dled home by Aodhan Mul­li­gan at the back post.

Af­ter a much-needed break to re­gain com­po­sure, St Malachy’s re­duced large swathes of the sec­ond half to shoot­ing ex­er­cises, al­though Mur­phy was equal to any­thing they could throw at him.

It was dur­ing that spell that Slane laid on big chances for Aidan McGe­own, Scul­lion and cap­tain Paddy Burns but Mur­phy de­nied them all.

Burns’ late op­por­tu­nity came just af­ter De La Salle were re­duced to 10 men, Hamill given a straight red for clash­ing with Mark Don­nelly in re­tal­i­a­tion for a late chal­lenge, giv­ing the ref­eree his eas­i­est de­ci­sion of the day.

As they had done in the first half, De La Salle caused a late scare when Rocks played in Sean McCullough only for Brian Rogers to rush out and mak­ing a cru­cial one-on-one stop.

His save, Slane’s per­for­mance and St Malachy’s dom­i­nance were all re­warded late on when the best player on the park seized on a de­fen­sive er­ror and jinked past Mur­phy to con­vert.

And the win was se­cured two min­utes later when that man Slane de­liv­ered an­other telling cross for Scul­lion to slam home.

“It’s the best feel­ing in the world,” said St Malachy’s skip­per Burns (be­low, with Danske Bank’s Aish­ling Press).

“As cap­tain of the team and as Head Boy of the school, it’s my proud­est mo­ment, my great­est hon­our and it’s all down to my team-mates and the coach­ing staff.

“Right from the start, very few peo­ple be­lieved in us but we be­lieved in our­selves and that was the key.

“We’ve pro­duced big re­sults along the way and to­day we knew it was go­ing to be a test.

“To win it with a group of guys that I’ve been mates with for seven years is the best ever feel­ing I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced.”


Out in front: Padraig Slane is mobbed af­ter putting St Malachy’s 2-1 ahead in ex­tra-time

Equal foot­ing: Conor McDon­ald draws De La Salle level

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