Strong finish helps superb St Patrick’s stride to silverware
THE potent fusion of skill, character and raw courage that St Patrick’s GS brought to the table at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh yesterday proved too much for Cathair Dhoire in this lively Ulster Colleges MacLarnon Cup final.
Even though they were forced to play for the closing segment of the contest a man down after the influential Ruairi O’Hare had been shown a red card following a late tackle, the St Patrick’s side never lost their concentration or cohesion.
In a match that was spliced with skill, laden with some polished attacking and resolute defending and embellished by individual flair, St Patrick’s underlined that staying-power and resolve are essential qualities when the heat is on.
And if the team as a whole scaled a new peak, then their standard-bearer was right-fullforward Tim Prenter. It is often said that goals win matches and Prenter landed a gem in each half yesterday that were to prove critical in his team’s win.
His first arrived in the 13th minute when he blazed in from the right, eluding several tackles before whipping the ball past helpless Cathair Dhoire goalkeeper Matthew Stephenson.
It was a goal of impeccable style and finesse, a score that visibly lifted his side and saw them steal a march on their opponents, with O’Hare landing two points from frees and one from play that saw the Downpatrick outfit take a 1-6 to 0-5 lead.
Not surprisingly, the supremely talented Ben McCarron, who has already adorned the Derry senior jersey this year, was in the vanguard of the resistance offered by the Derry seat of learning.
McCarron, the fulcrum of his side’s attack, whipped over three points in less than 10 minutes to sustain his team’s challenge, and when he grabbed a fourth shortly afterwards there was no danger of St Patrick’s being allowed off the hook.
And this was forcibly underlined when Cathair Dhoire midfielder Oran McGrath surged forward powerfully and steered an angled shot into the corner of the St Patrick’s net.
St Patrick’s held a rather tenuous 1-8 to 1-7 interval lead, with Cathair Derry offering more than a hint in the closing stages of the first-half that they could delve deeper into their resevoir of skill.
But when Ronan Connor and Tom Smyth (right) pounced for St Patrick’s points on the resumption, gaps began to appear in the Derry team’s defence.
Yet after Cahir McMonagle, Fergal Mortimer and the ever-dangerous McCarron swooped for points, the north-west side were back in business at 1-10 to 1-10.
That was, however, as good as it got for them.
O’Hare’s dismissal may have been a setback, but the six points he had scored before then had already sent his side careering along the path to success.
It was one of his points and another from substitute Ruairi Quinn that eased St Patrick’s into a 1-12 to 1-10 lead with the game very much in the balance.
If anything, the loss of O’Hare seemed to add further steel and solidity to the Downpatrick team’s overall effort, and their never-say-die spirit was dramatically rewarded in the 57th minute. A drive from midfield by Connor saw him make headway deep into Cathair Dhoire territory, but when he off-loaded the ball in Prenter’s direction it went to ground.
Not to be outdone, the stocky corner-forward somehow managed to screw the ball across the face of the goal and into the far corner of the net past a stranded Stephenson.
It was a copybook finish, a score out of nothing that proved the ultimate killer blow.
A point from a free by McCarron was all that a by now demoralised Cathair Dhoire could muster in response as the St Patrick’s defence held firm in a tense, frantic finish to ensure a truly memorable red letter day for their school.
Glory day: St Patrick’s GS, Downpatrick captain Ronan Murphy gets to grips with the MacLarnon Cup