COLÁISTE MHUIRE, ASKEATON…………………………………………………3

MAYFIELD COMMUNITY SCHOOL……………………………………..……….2

A goal brilliantly engineered by Danny Neville and clinically finished by Niall Smith in the first minute of the first period of extra time proved decisive in Coláiste Mhuire, Askeaton being crowned Munster Colleges Senior Challenge Cup champions at Buttevant on Friday afternoon.

It was a historic day for the West Limerick college as they were claiming Munster Colleges honours in soccer for the first time. The winning goal was of such quality that it was worthy of winning any contest. Anything other than victory for Coláiste Mhuire would have been a travesty of justice as apart from short periods at the start of each half, they dominated in a game that was full of thrills, spills and passages of very neat football. Both sides started tentatively but it was the Cork school that had the better of the early exchanges and looked as if they were determined to succeed Douglas the 2011 Challenge Cup champions. Any notions that Mayfield harboured of the trophy making the short jaunt from the southside to the northside of Cork city were quickly dispelled as Coláiste Mhuire grew into the game and from then on the more likely abode for the cup for the next twelve months was the Shannon Estuary area of west Limerick. “I am caught for words at the moment, it is a fantastic achievement, everybody in the squad put in a fantastic effort,” was the reaction of Coláiste Mhuire team manager Michael Daly. “ At 2-0, I said to the lads at half time to take their time and take it all in. We knew that with the strong breeze against us in the second half, we would have to defend. They came back strong, got the two goals that brought the game to extra time,” he said. But Daly was not surprised at the quality of the winning goal and the team’s success. “The lads have been playing like that all year and this is our third 3-2 result. I knew the lads could do it, I was confident that they would come through and that if it came down to penalties, we would still have won,” he said as he headed off to join his winning charges.

Mayfield set out their stall with a 4-5-1 formation and as a result Coláiste Mhuire had some difficulty in finding their rhythm, but once they did, they had the ability to cause the Mayfield defence all sorts of problems as they peppered Aidan De Lacy’s goal. The netminder to this credit made some critical interventions to deny the Limerick side who having established a 2-0 advantage by half time surrendered it early in the second half before driving on to claim the spoils in extra time.

The first worthwhile effort on goal came after just 4 minutes when Mayfield’s Bill Tabb channelled the ball through to lone striker James Cotter who forced Dan Madden into a smart save. Danny Neville was growing in confidence and in the 16th minute he sublimely back heeled the ball into the path of the very impressive Cormac O’Shea and as he was about to pull the trigger, his namesake James at the heart of the Mayfield defence got in a vital block. A minute later, after a fine through ball from team captain Darragh Walsh, Neville sprung the offside trap and was only denied by a fine save by De Lacy, who had to come to his side’s rescue again within minute with Neville threatening.

On 28 minutes after good work by Donal O’Connell who put Danny Neville through, Lacy could only parry the effort and Cormac O’Shea was unlucky to drive the rebound over.

The breakthrough which Coláiste Mhuire richly deserved finally arrived on 33 minutes when Niall Smith, who put in a tireless performance throughout, won possession and wriggled and squirmed in the box before being upended by a defender under the nose of the referee who rightly had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up steeped Stephen Carrig to stroke a perfect penalty past Aidan De Lacy. Within a minute Neville almost doubled the lead when he forced De Lacy into somehow keeping the ball out with his foot. The Neville and De Lacy individual battle was rapidly becoming a sub plot of the main drama that was growing frustrating for the Coláiste Mhuire star as he seemed unable to find any way past the Mayfield custodian. It was about to change on 37 minutes when Neville won possession in midfield and released Carrig on the left who delivered an inch perfect pass into the box and into the path of Neville to deftly steer past De Lacy. If Neville and De Lacy were having their own private battle at one end, a battle of nerves was developing at the other end between Askeaton keeper Dan Madden and James Cotter. First on 39 minutes Madden denied the Cork striker when he appeared certain to score and four minutes later it was advantage Askeaton again. Following a delivery into the box, referee Finbarr Murphy adjudged that there was a push on a Mayfield player and pointed to the spot. Up stepped Cotter to put the goalkeeper the wrong way but the ball wide of the target in what was a let off for the Limerick side who trooped off at half time 2-0 in the ascendancy.

After the interval and with the winds to their backs, Mayfield launched an all out assault and almost halved the deficit inside two minutes when Madden could only parry a free kick but a Mayfield boot shot over. They did halve the advantage after five minutes when team captain Shane Geraghty, a cousin of the six times capped England rugby international of the same name, capitalised on uncertainly in the Askeaton box and prodded the ball home.

It was a major fillip for the Cork side and with confidence now coursing through their veins, they came forward in waves in search of an equaliser and were rewarded on the hour mark. Paul Hickey was the provider when his delivery reached Aaron Hennessy who guided the ball past Madden for parity.

The initiative seemed to be swinging in favour of the Cork side but Coláiste Mhuire were having none of it as skipper Darragh Walsh and his back four colleagues Eoin Cuddihy, Evan Fitzgerald and Niall Maher formed an impenetrable wall in front of Dan Madden as the west Limerick side drove on in search of a winner which Danny Neville almost found on 83 minutes as he his effort just went over.

It ended in stalemate at two all, meaning two ten minute periods of extra. The first minute of the first period produced what turned out to be the winner. Danny Neville won the ball in midfield before treading a delightfully weighted pass into the path of Niall Smith who struck from outside the box to send the net shivering as the ball nestled in the left corner. A fine effort from James Cotter at the start of the second period was as near as Mayfield came to securing another equaliser. Cramps and tired limbs were now the order as Neville again was in the thick of the action as he forced a great save from De Lacy on 103 minutes. From that point on the Cork school came forward in a desperate bid for salvation but Coláiste Mhuire were not for relenting and judiciously used the sanctuary of the touch line in what were nail biting final minutes to preserve the advantage and secure a famous win.

After the game, Diarmuid Mullins, Vice Chairman of F.A.I. Munster Schools presented the Senior Challenge Cup to Askeaton captain Darragh Walsh.

Coláiste Mhuire player Ross Mann missed the game due to the death of his grandmother Alice Mann for whom a minute’s silence was observed before the game.

Coláiste Mhuire: Dan Madden; Dale Fitzgerald (Shane Long 73), Darragh Walsh (capt), Eoin Cuddihy, Niall Maher; Evan Fitzgerald, Donal O’Connell, Cormac O’Shea (Mark Hayes 102), Stephen Carrig (James Naughton 55); Niall Smith and Danny Neville.

Mayfield Community School: Aidan De Lacy; Wayne Buckley, Bill Tabb, James O’Shea, Roy O’Brien: Shane Geraghty (capt), Christopher McCarthy, Paul Hickey (Paul Koffi 78), Aaron Hennessy, Dylan O’Leary: and James Cotter.

Referee: Finbarr Murphy, C.R.S.