Strong fin­ish helps su­perb St Pa­trick’s stride to sil­ver­ware

Belfast Telegraph - School's Cup - - SCHOOLS’ CUP FINALS 2019 - BY JOHN CAMP­BELL

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.

DE­CLAN ROUGHAN

Glory day: St Pa­trick’s GS, Down­patrick cap­tain Ro­nan Mur­phy gets to grips with the MacLarnon Cup

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