Nick Judge produced two immaculate shoot-out saves to ensure St Andrew’s remain the dominant force of the All-Ireland Schoolboys hockey scene, winning the Tasmanian Shield at Garryduff for the fifth time in sixth years.
His blocks saw Andrew’s prevail 4-1 in a penalty stroke competition against Dublin rivals Wesley after normal time ended up locked at 1-1, the Ballinteer side battling all the way but could not find the winning touch in regulation time.
It meant the Booterstown outfit were the champs for the seventh time in total, joining RBAI at the top of the all-time winners list. It also meant they have now won five of their titles by beating Wesley in the deciding match.
In the final, Wesley started the brighter with a number of strong chances from play. The Saints, though, held strong with Matteo Romoli to the fore at sweeper while Jamie Pullen and Stephen McCann put in huge shifts to break up their Ballinteer rivals’ rhythm. Gavin Quill’s deflection was the pick of the Wes chances.
Andrew’s grew into the tie and they went ahead five minutes before half-time when a raking move down the right channel ended with Riley Marchant on the right baseline. He spotted a near post gap and slipped home for 1-0.
Rian McDonald and Greg Arrowsmith had chances to extend the advantage in the first four minutes of the second half but, after that flurry of openings, Wesley reasserted their control on the game.
With Cameron Ruttle wreaking havoc, they won a series of penalty corners, one of which was slapped home by Rob McCollum for 1-1. They had more of the openings to win the game, drawing some brilliant stops from goalkeeper Judge.
There was drama 10 minutes from the end when Andrew’s were awarded a penalty stroke when a shot hit the post man’s body. After a review between the umpires, the shot was deemed to be going wide and a free out was the final decision, meaning the tie stayed locked at 1-1 until full time.
No major chances came in the additional period, meaning the tie was to be settled by a penalty stroke competition. Judge saved in the first and third round while Romoli, David Shanahan and Greg Arrowsmith all scored to build a 3-1 advantage.
It gave Ben Walker – a senior international – to add the crowning moment for a second successive year and he duly flicked home to secure the seventh Tasmanian Shield title.
Coach Ivan Ovington has been at the helm for each of the seven victories and he said afterwards: “We did it the hard way this year, beating Ulster’s best side Sullivan Upper in the group stages and then High School and a very good Wesley side.
“We were glad to get the game to extra time and were willing to take our chances on strokes in the end. We reverted to instinct at times but we got there.”
In the semi-final, Andrew’s ended High School’s run thanks to Matteo Romoli’s second half winner in a 2-1 after Sam Byrne and Ali Empey traded earlier goals. Wesley prevailed against Friends 2-0 with Ruttle and Ben O’Grady on the mark.
All-Ireland Schoolboys Championships
Final: St Andrew’s 1 (R Marchant) Wesley College 1 (R McCollum), St Andrew’s win 4-1 on strokes
Semi-final: St Andrew’s 2 (S Byrne, M Romoli) High School 1 (A Empey); Wesley 2 (C Ruttle, B O’Grady) Friends 0