All-Ireland Schoolboy’s Hockey Championships final:
Wesley College 3 (Peter English, Rob Burke, Luke Chadwick) Wallace HS 2 (Stephen Hunter 2) after silver-goal extra-time.
Luke Chadwick was the silver-goal hero as Wesley College claimed their third All-Ireland Schoolboy’s Championship crown of the decade as they edge out Wallace HS 3-2 in extra-time.
The YM midfielder snapped up a rebound from Peter English’s corner two minutes from the end of the first period of extra-time – the fifth time in seven years the title has been decided in over-time.
It helped erase the painful memories for much of the Wesley squad who were denied 12 months ago in Limerick by Stephen Cole’s late winner for St Andrews.
This time out they went into the final with a heavy favourites tag against tournament surprise-package Wallace, who emerged from the Ulster qualifiers ahead of Methody.
But, inspired by Stephen Hunter, Peter MacDonnell and Matthew Murphy’s semi-final hat-trick, they progressed untroubled through the tournament, emerging from the so-called group of death ahead of Cookstown and St Andrew’s.
And they enjoyed the better of a stodgy first half which failed to truly catch a fire.
It took fully 16 minutes for the first shot in anger and only three other efforts on goal were forthcoming before the break. That went into the net from a Wallace corner rebound but was ruled out after an umpire’s consultation, a foot in the circle the reasoning.
Another of those chances, though, fell to Stephen Hunter who swept in a switch-left from the Lisburn school’s second corner for 1-0 at half-time. But, for all the cagey first half intrigue, the second half was played at a blistering pace.
Wesley’s ball speed was key to their hugely impressive win over Banbridge, prompting some well-placed observers to declare it one of the best school’s performances ever.
Such effort was lacking pre-break but the zip returned following Andy McConnell’s team-talk and made for an excellent spectacle.
Alan White and Tom Samuel did the probing down the right to win a key Wesley corner and English slung in his eighth goal of the tournament, levelling the tie three minutes after the break.
And when Rob Burke’s heavily deflected effort beat Luke Williams it looked like the Ballinteer school may have the tie settled.
Burke was found by Kyle Good’s peach of a pass, dissecting three sticks and while his strike was not the truest, combined with Glenn Reid’s block, it had the power to rattle the backboard.
But any notions of comfort were dispelled within a minute when Chadwick was sin-binned for his third indiscretion to warrant a talking to and Wallace took full advantage.
With the fiery left-mid on the sideline, Hunter flew down the vacant right channel to win a 51st minute corner. The same switch gave him the opportunity to level and he planted his shot low by Rob Fitzgerald.
Both sides had late chances to nick the title in normal time, Good’s lay-off across goal was well-retrieved by Shane Madeley on the endline but Reid came from nowhere to block his shot.
Extra-time beckoned. Wallace had first dig with Murphy aiming a high drag-flick but Fitzgerald saved it along with the follow-up.
At the far end, Madeley found the defender’s foot for Wesley’s fifth corner. Williams saved well from English but Chadwick made no mistake with his shot at redemption to squeeze home.
Wesley played out the final 90 seconds on the back foot but no further chances and the title was theirs for a third time.
Wesley College: Rob Fitzgerald, David McCrea, Scott Margetson, Rob Burke, Conor Motyer (co-capt), Peter English, Kyle Good (co-capt), Alan White, Luke Chadwick, Neal Megarity, Shane Madeley, Tom Samuel, Stephen Doherty, David Sturley, Jonathon Lewis, Conor Quinn
Wallace HS: Luke Williams, Glenn Reid, Stephen Murray, Jonathon Crean, Adam McCann, Richard Arneill, Peter MacDonnell (co-capt), Chris Rowland, Michael Keary, Matthew Murphy, Timothy Crean, Stephen Hood, Conor Kelly, Jonathon Dunn, Stephen Hunter (co-capt), Sebastian Buser
* Photos from the final can be seen here
** Loads of people helped me out with covering this tournament so just want to say a big thanks especially to Ronan Walsh as well as Andy McConnell, Gareth Borland, Peter Caruth and Katie Roche.