Subway All-Ireland Schoolboys Championships
Banbridge Academy 3 (J Rowe 3) Wesley College 2 (G Gibney, S Hyland)
Jake Rowe’s last second winner saw Banbridge win back the Subway All-Ireland Schoolboys Championship title in dramatic fashion as Shaw’s Bridge, firing home a pin-point drag-flick to see off Wesley 3-2.
It was his third of the day as the Dubliners never got to grips with the Bann set-piece. Rowe had initially turned a third minute deficit into a 2-1 lead in the second half with his first two strikes.
Sam Hyland appeared to have salvaged a draw two minutes from time. But one last penalty corner was earned at the death and Rowe duly obliged to bring the Tasmanian Shield the short journey down the Lurgan Road for the first time since 2011.
Wesley had begun in flying form, using the confidence built from dethroning St Andrew’s earlier in the day. They hit the front with with a hotly contested effort, Gavin Gibney smashing home at the second attempt to the top corner.
It was contentious to say the least as Bann argued that his first fresh-air swipe at the ball was dangerous but the complaints fell on deaf ears.
From there, Wesley continued to make most of the running for much of the first half with Gibney a constant threat and Daragh Walsh moving the ball on at pace.
But their momentum stalled as Banbridge began to apply a higher, more aggressive press. It yielded dividends and plenty of ball in good positions, earning a 20th minute corner that Rowe dispatched for 1-1.
Defensively, the Co Down side were superb with captain Andrew Bennington a rock in the centre, picking off excellent low tackles to protect his side’s circle. On the counter, they took their fleeting chances when they came. Joel Reid won a second corner which Rowe took delight in firing home just a couple of minutes into the second half.
The Dubliners were still enjoying the majority of possession, though, and with Mark Samuel driving them forward, began to build waves of pressure. Bennington charged one down to retain the narrow advantage to add to Wesley’s frustrations and they were almost caught on the counter.
Rowe came within inches of killing off the tie when another corner flick hit the outside of the Wesley post. In an incredible finale, Wes finally found their equaliser from their fourth penalty corner. Twice they saw shots charged down before Hyland took control and flicked home the rebound past Luke Roleston.
There was one last twist, though, as Bann broke forward and won their fourth corner of the game and, with the last play, Rowe produced the goods yet again.
Speaking afterwards, Bann coach Mark Cordner said a pivotal element in the school’s success was their close link with the Banbridge club, praising their approach in allowing the players rest at key times to reach an elite level.
Just four of the side finish this year while eight of the side have at least two more years with the panel, suggesting they can make an impact in the next couple of seasons, too.
For Wesley, it was another painful final, their third at this stage in the competition in the last four years.
Wesley College: L Campion, H McMahon, D Mawhinney, D Connolly, D Walsh, S Hyland, J O’Grady, M Samuel, C Evers, D Ellison, G Gibney
Subs: A Sykes, R Shirley, A Barlow, G Boothman, R McCollum
Banbridge Academy: L Roleston, A Bennington, M Barlow, C Norris, J Reid, K Marshall, P McKnight, N Liggett, J Rowe, J Anderson, M Adair
Subs: S Green, C Gibson, P Campbell, R Simms, D Cowan
— Banbridge Leader (@banleader) October 23, 2015