St. Michael’s dig deep to lift the cup

St Michael's Grammar School, Lurgan celebrate winning the Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup after defeating St Louis Grammar School, Kilkeel at the Athletic Grounds on Monday afternoon.           Picture: Conor Greenan
St Michael's Grammar School, Lurgan celebrate winning the Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup after defeating St Louis Grammar School, Kilkeel at the Athletic Grounds on Monday afternoon. Picture: Conor Greenan

ST. MICHAEL’S 1-06

ST. LOUIS 1-04

ST. MICHAEL’S Grammar School, Lurgan won a dramatic Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on Monday afternoon when they edged past a gallant St. Louis Kilkeel side.

St Louis looked the more composed team in the opening period and it was their midfielder McAlinden, a strong presence throughout the first half, who opened the scoring in the second minute from a free before John Paul Farrell doubled their lead with a fine effort from play. A great catch from Eoin McCabrey allowed James McDade to open the Lurgan lads’ account.

St. Michael’s came closest to grabbing the opening goal in the 17th minute when Padraig Judge played an excellent cross field ball to full forward Ruairi Loughran who brilliantly got past two players, but his low shot produced a superb save from the Kilkeel goalkeeper.

After that save it was St. Louis who looked the better side with McAlinden knocking over two frees, the second of which was a sublime score from distance with the outside of his boot. St Michael’s began to come into the game more in the closing stages of the half with midfielder Oisin Lenehan showing good strength to hold off a couple of challenges before striking a good point. St. Louis Kilkeel led 0-4 to 0-2 at the break and they were full value for that advantage.

The second half was a much better spectacle between two very committed sides. After McAlinden had to go off in the 36th minute the winners got level within moments thanks to well taken points from James McDade and Ruairí Loughran.

In the 48th minute St. Michael’s grabbed their goal when a high ball in from John Magee was palmed to the net by full forward Loughran. Pádraig Judge and Magee tagged on points and at that stage St. Michael’s looked like emerging comfortable winners.

However, with six minutes remaining, Kilkeel were right back in the match when Daithi Young smashed the ball to the roof of the net to leave two points between the teams. The momentum was now with St. Louis and with a minute of normal time they were awarded a penalty, but James Reilly’s spot-kick struck the post with ’keeper Jack Wilson going the wrong way. St. Michael’s were composed on the ball during the four additional minutes of injury time and they defended gallantly with Shea Heffron deservedly winning the man of the match award.

There were jubilant scenes at the final whistle as St. Michael’s held on for their eighth MacLarnon title. St. Michael’s midfielder Jonathan Torode was delighted.

“It’s one of the best days of my life,” said Jonathan. “We have worked so hard for the past six or seven months for this day and it’s all worthwhile now. We were two behind at half-time, but everyone redoubled their efforts in the second half and it’s a brilliant feeling. My heart sank when they were awarded a penalty, but whenever it hit the post I knew that we were going to win.”

Joint captains Diarmuid O’Hagan and Shea Heffron lifted the MacLarnon cup to an ecstatic Lurgan crowd. St. Michael’s manager David Wilson was very proud of his players.

“I am delighted for the full panel of players who are Ulster champions,” he said. “While it wasn’t our best performance of the year, the boys showed great character to grind out a result today which is great for the school community. We are lucky to have excellent coaches in the school and a very supportive PE dept who have all contributed to the success of the boys. I would like to thank the teaching and non teaching staff within the school for their support, which is greatly appreciated.

“The team would like to acknowledge the support and the help received from all the local clubs, the local feeder schools and also our sponsor Hendron School of Motoring.”

St. Michael’s had a strong, vocal support from the Lurgan community and they will look forward to an All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday 30th March.