Super St. Michael’s hold nerve to lift the Rafferty Cup

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St. Michael’s Lurgan 1-14

Coleraine 2-09

St. Michael’s Grammar School battled against the elements and a sterling fightback from Loretto College Coleraine last Friday night to lift the Ulster Schools Rafferty Cup at the end of a fascinating encounter.

Both sides were a credit considering the persistent and driving rain which made open football very difficult.

Although it was the Lurgan side who raced to a 10 points lead before the break, two second have goals and several unanswered points from the eventual losers kept the sizeable crowd on their feet right up to the final whistle, which allowed St. Michael’s skipper Sean McAlinden the luxury of lifting what was formerly the Herald Cup.

The young Trasna man’s post match speech matched his endeavour on the field of play which was in a word sublime.

Prompted by the performances from midfielders Jack Lenihan and Barry McCambridge, St. Michael’s tore lanes through the Coleraine defence in the opening half. Wolfe Tones player Adhoran Magee and Clann Éireann forward Aidan McConville were scoring for fun in the first quarter and with fellow forwards Shane Lavery, Conor Turbitt, Conor McDonald and Shay Gegarty involved in many swift movements the Lurgan School looked well on their way to victory.

When St. Mary’s Aghagallon player Lavery broke through to find the net for his side one minute before the break to give the winners a 1-10 to 0-04 lead, Coleraine needed what appeared to be a minor miracle. What transpired during a titanic second half brought out the best in both sides. St. Michael’s, who had galvanised their challenge with an impressive opening salvo and a point straight after the restart from Shane Lavery, were pinned to their collars in the second period by their opponents who scored two goals in the second quarter from their highly rated midfielder Conor Gilligan who had an outstanding game.

With Coleraine taking the fight to St. Michael’s in the second half the Lurgan School were forced to live on crumbs, the losers outscored their opponents 2-05 to 0-04 but despite their domination the winners had both the determination and the resolve to hold their nerve before striking the final two points of the game in injury time.

Brilliant in defence and marshalled by their captain Sean McAlinden, St. Michael’s back to the wall performance in the closing stages was both admirable and commendable,.

In goals Clan na Gael’s Oisin Campbell showed bravery on a number of occasions a half forward line of Lavery, Turbitt and McDonald were always probing and supplying quality deliveries to inside men Gegarty, McConville and Magee.

In defence Aidan Mulholland and Wolfe Tones player Oliver McConville enhanced their reputations as did half backs Tiaran O’Neill St. Peter’s, Paul Mulholland from St. Mary’s and Clann Eireann’s Jack Haddock. One of the most crucial scores of the game came from St. Michael’s substitute and St. Paul’s player Adhran Magill who struck for a settling score minutes before the end of a absorbing final.

St Michaels Grammar School: Oisin Campbell Clan Na Gael, Aidan Mulholland St. Mary’s Aghagallon, Sean McAlinden Sarsfields, Oliver McConville Wolfe Tones, Tiarnan O’Neill St. Peter’s, Paul Mulholland St. Mary’s Aghagallon, Jack Haddock Clann Éireann Barry McCambridge Clann Éireann, Jack Lenihan St. Mary’s Aghagallon, Shane Lavery St. Mary’s Aghagallon, Conor Turbitt, Clann Éireann, Conor McDonald Clann Éireann, Shay Gegarty St. Peter’s, Aidan Mc Conville Clann Éireann, Odhran Magee Wolfe Tones. Subs: Owen McCusker Eire Og, Odhran Magee St.Paul’s, Adam Shanks St. Mary’s Aghagallon.