Andrew’s in a Walker wonderland as Saints eventually see off Bann in All-Ireland final

Subway All-Ireland Schoolboys Championships final
St Andrew’s College 3 (B Mannion, C Denver, B Walker) Banbridge Academy 2 (J Rowe 2)
Ben Walker provided the flash of inspiration with less than 90 seconds remaining to land St Andrew’s their sixth Subway All-Ireland Schoolboys Championship title, dethroning Banbridge Academy in dramatic style.

Coach Ivan Ovington has presided over all six of the Booterstown school’s successes but said that the moment is all about the players after a top class final.

“They are all equally special but you don’t take games and moments like this for granted,” he said afterwards. “I have been here a few times but what it means for these guys, it’s everything. They are special, special memories the lads will take away from today for sure.”

St Andrew's celebrate their Subway All-Ireland Schoolboy Championship success. Pic: Adrian Boehm

St Andrew’s celebrate their Subway All-Ireland Schoolboy Championship success. Pic: Adrian Boehm

His side got off to a flying start in a tie hastily refixed for Newpark following a burst water pipe at Grange Road. Walker escaped the clutches of the otherwise immense Kyle Marshall down the left wing before picking out Ben Mannion at the right post to tap home.

Walker also ghosted around the left and almost saw his pass loop in moments later but a combination of goalkeeper Luke Roleston and a defender bustled away the chance.

Any notions of an easy ride, however, were quickly dispelled as Academy won a corner that Jake Rowe whipped home. He scored a hat trick of set pieces in the final a year ago and was once again deadly in this arena all through the tournament.

Banbridge Academy's Kyle Marshall puts in a diving tackle. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Banbridge Academy’s Kyle Marshall puts in a diving tackle. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Parity, however, only lasted a couple of minutes as Charlie Denver got a great touch to Matteo Romoli’s crash ball in the 13th minute to redirect home.

Back came Bann; Nathan Liggett was nudged over when well placed to score, earning a penalty stroke that Rowe converted for 2-2 with just 15 minutes on the clock.

It was a potential goal-fest but both sides calmed down thereafter with Guy Sarratt controlling the tempo of the St Andrew’s game while Marshall made innumerable key interventions, more and more dramatic as time wore on.

Bann were also thankful to the superb goalkeeping of Roleston, one of the heroes of 2015. He crucially kept out a flurry of four penalty corners early in the second half while his counterpart Ben Bradley brilliantly tipped over another Rowe effort, a lovely 3D lob from the baseline.

Ben Walker lines up the winning goal. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Ben Walker lines up the winning goal. Pic: Adrian Boehm

Andrew’s were the side making most of the play and, with a shoot-out looming, they got their sixth and final penalty corner. The first two series of shots were smothered but amid the scramble, Walker was an oasis of calm, gathering the ball and coolly flicking home.

It was the seventh goal of the competition for the diminutive midfielder – who also netted twice in a 2-1 win over Wallace HS in the semi-final – and coach Ovington paid tribute to his key intervention along with his captain.

“Ben Walker just makes things happen and Guy [Sarratt] is an incredible leader. When we need something, Walker just seems to come up with something for us and if anyone is likely to come up with a winner, it’s him!”

“It was an awesome game,” he added. “Banbridge were so disciplined and worked so hard. I didn’t think it was going to come in that second half but we just kept going and eventually we got that little spark to finish the game.”

St Andrew’s: B Bradley, E Good, G Sarratt, I Cooke, H Craig, M Romoli, B Walker, J Guilfoyle, D Shanahan, J Little, B Mannion
Subs: C Murphy, S Byrne, G Arrowsmith, C Denver, R McDonald

Banbridge Academy: L Roleston, K Marshall, R Simms, D Cowan, J Anderson, J Rowe, C Norris, M Barlow, P Campbell, N Liggett, J Reid
Subs: L Bingham, H Lockhart, E Rowe, S Dale, C Gibson

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