Peter's poised for big final bid
Magherafelt stand in their way
When St. Peter's dismantled Moate in the Leinster final, ending a quarter-century of Senior football hurt, a whole school collectively exhaled. After years in the shadows of their New Ross rivals up the N25, there was a reason to puff out the chests. Champions again, finally.
'Our lads were just tuned in, it would have taken a very good team to beat us that day,' said teacher and mentor Chris Murphy. That day was January 27, the Leinster final; St. Peter's finest, most complete, performance of a season that promised plenty.
When Good Counsel were winning the Junior All-Ireland two years ago, the Summerhill boys were good, just not quite good enough. Murphy, who has been with them along the journey, said: 'I always knew we had the quality and this year they've done themselves justice'.
They've done it in style too. The Wexford school qualified for the South Leinster league final back in the autumn, the first sign that this year could truly be different. When the draw for the championship was made, a tricky encounter faced St. Peter's.
Each match on a championship run is important but there were few bigger than that game against talented south Dublin opponents.
'The very first game against Coláiste Eoin was probably the best win we had,' Murphy admitted.
'In the last couple of years we've been beaten by a point in the first round. The game was at home, we'd great support down at it and it was a tough. That was a real battle.' Battle-hardened, that's how it left his side.
Concessions of last-gasp goals in the quarters and semi-finals made wins against Knockbeg (3-9 to 1-11) and Wicklow Schools (0-13 to 1-8) seem closer than they actually were. Nevertheless, a first final since 1996, in the manner it was achieved, was massively impressive.
Moate never really stood a chance. St. Peter's dominated the game and were worthy of their 2-13 to 0-7 win. That was, as has previously been mentioned, on January 27.
And 54 days later they meet St. Mary's (Magherafelt) in the Masita All-Ireland Senior schools football semi-final (Wednesday, 2 p.m., Drogheda).
'After the leinster final, the lads kind of switched straight away to the hurling. Then in the middle of that, most of them were doing mock exams, then came the mid-term break so it kind of left them off football-wise until after that,' Murphy explained.
'We knew we'd have the four weeks then when we came back from mid-term to kind of build things up again. We were able to get that league final played last week and we had another really tough battle.
'Thankfully the lads came out on the right side of it, but look, I think we're in a good position now.'
The testy league final couple prove hugely important. Four days after St. Peter's beat Patrician of Newbridge, the Ulster Senior final was played.
For the first time in their history, Magherafelt claimed the MacRory Cup, beating St. Colman's (Newry) by 0-19 to 0-13.
Murphy, a Wicklow native working as a teacher in St. Peter's for the last five years, travelled north to check out the Ulster decider with fellow selector, and Wexford footballer, Brian Malone. He was impressed by what he saw.
'They're a very balanced team actually. I was quite impressed with how they move the ball. They can mix it. They can run with the ball, off the shoulder running. They play wide.
'They have a big target man in full-forward and they can hit him with diagonal balls so, I mean, they're a very capable outfit.
'At the same time, look, we've a lot to be worrying about to get our own selves right, without getting too bogged down on what's facing us. They'll have done their research on us as well, seen results and may be wanting to clamp down on some of our scoring threats up front. We'd expect nothing else at this level.'
Planning for a St. Peter's onslaught is one thing, preventing them from gaining control is another. A feaure of the Wexford school's run to the final has been their strength-in-depth, and Murphy admitted it's difficult for himself and Malone to pick a team.
'It's more so a tactical reason that a lad is left out than he's not good enough, depending on what way we're going to set up that day or what we think the opposition will do. Some lads are going to lose out.
'When the game is in the melting pot those are the guys who will be winning the game for us. They've came on and they've produced it when we've needed them to and, by all accounts, Wednesday we're going to need every one of those 20 lads.'