Future bright for Meanscoil
Duiske College 6-5 Meanscoil Gharman 3-6
Forget, for a moment, the final result of this Top Oil South Leinster Schools Junior football 'D' championship eleven-a-side final held in difficult underfoot conditions on the second pitch in O'Kennedy Park, New Ross, on Thursday.
Meanscoil Gharman may have ultimately lost to Duiske College from Graiguenamanagh by eight points, but they should regard this game as the start of a bright new dawn rather than simply the end of this particular campaign.
The match saw history being made, as it was the small Brownswood school's first-ever final appearance in its ten-year existence.
The Meanscoil Gharman name has been prominent in extra-curricular stage-related activities since 2008, but they have been beavering away with limited resources on the playing fields also and this was the first tangible reward.
Dedicated mentor David Gannon, a county Minor footballer in 2002, has put a great deal of time and effort into this particular group, and the Sarsfields clubman has a strong base to work from as the school looks to build on this notable achievement.
With a mere 210 pupils in total, and just one hundred boys, the fact that they remained in contention for honours until the last ten minutes was worthy of fulsome praise.
And there was a hint of 'what if' about the outcome as Meanscoil Gharman were denied the services of key player Barry Cloake owing to illness.
Hailing from a family of talented athletes, his pace would have been of immense benefit, especially in an eleven-a-side game played on a shortened, heavy pitch with smaller Under-12 goalposts in use.
The Wexford lads were slow to settle against a school more accustomed to final appearances, and they were fortunate to find themselves only one point in arrears after seven minutes.
Jason McGrath had opened the Duiske account, but their first three wides from an overall tally of five had included a penalty miss by Pierce Blanchfield after Taighe O'Brien missed the target earlier with a low drive.
A late tackle on Meanscoil captain Seán O Ceallaigh-Komolafe (grandson of former Wexford Senior footballer Rory Kelly), gave sharpshooter Eamon O Móráin his first opportunity to loft over a free in the eighth minute.
Blessed with a lovely unforced kicking style, the corner-forward floated the ball goalwards and let the wind do the rest.
Duiske defender Stephen Foley was booked for a challenge on O Móráin on the next Meanscoil attack of note, and the Crossabeg-Ballymurn player doubled his tally and gave the newcomers the lead for the first time.
A third converted O Móráin free, earned on this occasion by Adam O Cathasaigh, opened up a two-point gap before the influential Byron Mac Suibhne and Aaron O Coigligh combined to pick out Ryan Ashgharian for their first score from play in the 16th minute (0-4 to 0-1).
Defender Donal O Riada got a vital touch on an attempted Jack Dunne pass to Jason McGrath as Duiske sought an equalising goal, while Danny O Broin made the first of several stunning saves from a Dunne exocet.
However, the ball was quickly returned to the danger zone, and Dunne got his toe to the break and managed to direct it into the corner of the net from close range.
Netminder O Broin parried another dangerous shot from Taighe O'Brien before the only two Meanscoil wides of the entire game were kicked in quick succession by Eamon O Móráin and Adam O Cathasaigh respectively.
Added time at the end of the 25-minute half featured an exchange of goals, with Duiske moving clear by 2-1 to 0-4 when Pierce Blanchfield's piercing run and handpass was finished capably by Jack Dunne.
There was an immediate and very strong response from Meanscoil Gharman, though, with Adam O Cathasaigh feeding Eamon O Móráin who rattled the net to ensure it was anyone's game at the change of ends.
O Móráin's fourth successful free, after a foul on Ryan Ashgharian, restored the Wexford school's lead on the re-start, although Duiske responded with points from Greg Hoban and Pierce Blanchfield.
The latter was denied a certain goal in between by another marvellous save by Danny O Broin whose heroics between the posts certainly weren't reflected in that final scoreline.
This game of many twists and turns veered back in favour of Meanscoil Gharman when Seán O Ceallaigh-Komolafe won a throw ball and raced goalwards before his speculative shot was misjudged by Duiske captain Paul Kielty and ended up in the net.
It was 2-5 to 2-3 in favour of the Brownswood boys with 16 minutes left, but their title bid was shattered in a blistering response by the Kilkenny side as they picked off a match-winning 4-2 without reply.
Another stinging shot by Pierce Blanchfield was turned acrobatically over the crossbar by the outstanding Danny O Broin, but he was powerless to prevent Ted Dunne from goaling to restore the Duiske lead with twelve minutes left.
The Graiguenamanagh crew took over completely thereafter, with a pointed Dunne free followed by three goals on the trot courtesy of Blanchfield, Jason McGrath and Jack Dunne, with the latter netting for the third time (6-5 to 2-5).
Meanscoil's race was run, but they kept fighting and secured some consolation scores after Seán O Ceallaigh-Komolafe was moved into the full-forward slot.
He caught a Byron Mac Suibhne free in the 49th minute and, while his connection on the ball wasn't strong, substitute Brian O Donnchú was following up and directed it into the net.
An O Ceallaigh-Komolafe free was then caught and pointed by the impressive Mac Suibhne, leaving Meanscoil Gharman with a deficit of eight but fully entitled to hold their heads high after a very promising display.
Hopefully this will be the first of several final appearances for these determined minnows who are clearly moving in the right direction, and they will no doubt learn from this experience.
Meanscoil Gharman: Danny O Broin (Marshalstown-Castledockrell); Dylan O Núalláin (Marshalstown-Castledockrell), Muiris O Raghnail (Glynn-Barntown); Donal O Riada (Shelmaliers), Oisín O Cuilinn (Bannow-Ballymitty); Byron Mac Suibhne (St. Mary's, Maudlintown, 0-1), Seán O Ceallaigh-Komolafe (Sarsfields, capt., 1-0); Aaron O Coigligh (Glynn-Barntown), Ryan Ashgharian (Sarsfields, 0-1); Adam O Cathasaigh (unattached), Eamon O Móráin (Crossabeg-Ballymurn, 1-4, 0-4 frees). Subs. - Harry Clavin (unattached) for O Coigligh (32), Patrick O Duibheagain (Sarsfields) for O Cathasaigh (45), Brian O Donnchú (Shelmaliers, 1-0) for O Móráin (45), Keegan Angood (unattached) for Ashgharian (45), Seamus O Broin (Marshalstown-Castledockrell) for O Raghnail, inj. (45), also Barry Cloake (Shelmaliers), Darragh Grant (Sarsfields).
Duiske College: Paul Kielty (capt.); Sam O'Brien, Stephen Foley; Ryan Kielty, Joseph O'Neill; Pierce Blanchfield (1-2), Taighe O'Brien; Ted Dunne (1-1, 0-1 free), Jason McGrath (1-1); Jack Dunne (3-0), Greg Hoban (0-1). Subs. - Shane Cleary for Hoban (45), Oran Canning for McGrath (48), Liam Cahill for T. Dunne (49).
Referee: John Bennett (Tullogher-Rosbercon).