McAlinden goal spurs St Ronan's on to knock favourites out of competition
While this result will be widely reported as a huge shock it should not mask what was a masterful display by the St Ronan's panel of players
It wasn’t a victory by virtue of a lucky goal or a poor display from their opponents but more one of intensity and skill in equal measure.
Despite St Colman’s going into the game as one of the major favourites for the MacRory cup it didn’t seem to phase the Lurgan lads and they played a superb brand of positive football.
St Ronan’s started brightly and despite playing against the breeze in the first half they were creating openings. Their defence were superb throughout the first half against the top scoring team from the group stages only conceding one point from play in the first half.
Conor McConville opened the scoring for St Ronan’s with a free from a tight angle and this was followed by points from Eunan Walsh and Conor Turbitt. Great team scores and finished with confidence.
St Colman’s were finding it very difficult to break down the St Ronan’s defence and were keeping in touch via free kicks. Conor McConville was matching that accuracy at the other end with two further frees of his own. Indeed Conor could have had a goal when the keeper misjudged a shot from distance but it cannoned off the bar to safety. St Colman’s scored a free just on the half time whistle to send the teams in level at 0-5 a piece.
Playing with the aid of a slight breeze in the second half St Ronan’s were second best for the first ten minutes and conceded 1-1 in this time to fall four points behind.
Lesser teams would have crumbled at this onslaught but great character coupled with energy provided by substitutes at this stage meant a comeback was on. Aodhan McConville scored a wonderful point rounding his man and striking over with his right foot and this was the catalyst for more scores. Conor McConville, who finished with 0-8, was proving very accurate from frees and he pinged over another one to leave the scores 0-7 to 1-7 with ten minutes gone in the second half.
St Ronan’s then worked a superb opening when Aodhan McConville took a quick free and found Eunan Walsh who fed Conor Turbitt but he was denied by a great save from the Colman’s keeper. The momentum was now with the Lurgan school and three points from Conor McConville, two frees, and a monstrous effort from 45m from play levelled the scores with 14 minutes left.
Points were then traded, Jack Lenehan getting a lovely worked point from play and another McConville free cancelled by two Newry scores.
With five minutes left on the clock the scores were level at 0-12 to 1-9 but then came the decisive score. Barry McCambridge barged through a few tackles and fed Kevin McAlinden who fed Walsh down the line, McAlinden followed his pass and took the return before finishing into the net.
The atmosphere was electric at this stage and St Colman’s were desperately pushing forward. They scored a point to reduce the gap to two but then a wonderful move involving substitutes Jamie Haughey and Rioghan Meehan produced an opening for Aodhan McConville and he duly obliged with a lovely strike from 35 metres.
Some frantic defending ensued with a goalmouth scramble as the Newry school looked for an equalising goal but St Ronan’s held out and were widely acclaimed as deserved winners at the end of a pulsating encounter.
The draw for the semi-final includes St Ronan’s College Lurgan, St Patrick’s Maghera, St Paul’s Bessbrook/St Michael’s Enniskillen and St Patrick’s Cavan/St Patrick’s Dungannon.
With each victory comes greater belief but there are massive challenges ahead and further improvement is needed to meet these.
St Ronan’s College: Ryan Conway, Sean McAlinden, Barry McCambridge, James McAlinden, Ryan Owens, Pat Branagan, Jack Haddock, Jack Lenehan, Conor McConville, Conor McDonald, Kevin McAlinden, Odhran Magill, Aodhan McConville, Eunan Walsh, Conor Turbitt. Subs: Shane Russell for Magill, Rioghan Meehan for McDonald, Jamie Haughey for Branagan, Odhran Magee for Turbitt, Aidan Mulholland for K McAlinden, Adam O’Connor, Adam Loughran, Eoin Henry ,Niall McCarron , Oliver McConville, Ruairi McConville, Thomas French, Tiarnan McKavanagh.