Bann win back-to-back Schoolboys champs

All-Ireland Schoolboy’s Championships final
Final: Banbridge 2 (M Bell, O Magee) Cookstown 1 (T Johnston)
Banbridge Academy became just the third school to retain the All-Ireland Schoolboy’s crown in its 30 year history as Owen Magee grabbed a winner 14 minutes from time to deny Ulster rivals Cookstown in Garryduff.

Magee dived full length to touch home a Matthew Bell drag-flick to make it 2-1 and the Co Down side held on to win the Tasmanian trophy for a fourth time and the first to go back-to-back since RBAI completed the feat in the mid-1990s.

Post-match speeches and presentations alluded to this not being a classic final, tiredness from five games in three days cited as a factor, but it had plenty of charms.

Not least were the sterling performances of the goalkeepers, especially Michael Anderson who managed to keep out all seven of Cookstown’s penalty corners, denying senior international Ian Sloan at every turn.

His first went closest of them all, tipped onto the post with the slightest touch to a high, travelling effort.
Academy responded in kind, Michael Duggan driving down the right wing to win an 11th minute corner which Bell slid home low to the glove-side

He had earlier been Bann’s hero in the semi-final, grabbing an equaliser four minutes from time against St Andrew’s, cancelling out Fiachra Maher’s deflected effort and forcing penalty strokes.

Indeed, during the week he showed his ice cool nerve with a last second winner against Midleton and he had no qualms about shooting home his first corner shot of the final.

The riposte was instant, Cookstown winning their third and fourth corner and while neither drew a goal, the fourth was palmed out for a long corner by Anderson.

It was neatly worked out to Matthew Rollins on the 25 – playing with heavy bandaging on his head due to a stray ball striking him in the semi-final with Wesley – and he whipped a power-slap at a perfect angle for Tony Johnston to deflect high into the roof of the net.

The Co Tyrone side were enjoying the edge in these phases, winning another couple of corners but, with Magee and Johnny McKee lurking on the counter, there was always a threat.

None more so than when a steal in midfield saw four quick passes for the excellent Ben Cosgrove to flip into Magee’s path and his first-time crack drew a robust stop from Jamie Kirkpatrick.

Into the second half, Magee’s near post deflection to the industrious Rory Woods’ cross clipped the sideboard before Sloan began to show his threat. First, he fired a dangerous reverse across the face of goal to wreak some havoc.

But his side were caught when the over-lapping Duggan was bundled over just inside the 25. From the corner, Magee stretched out a stick to beat Kirkpatrick and the two linesmen with a deft effort.

Cookstown’s response was mighty, Rollins marauding forward from the back to clip a sweet reverse which Anderson brilliantly pushed away while Sloan’s virtuoso solo run ended in the side-netting.

With time running out, the Irish international almost capitalised as Bann delayed a free-out and saw the decision reversed. Sloan was on it like a light but Anderson was alert to stay tall and boot the shot clear.

Magee and Woods showed maturity to run the clock out, winning a corner on the final hooter. Bann initially raced onto the pitch to celebrate before taking the corner. It came to nothing but mattered little as they welcomed back the Tasmanian shield for another year in Co Down.

Earlier in the day, both northern teams progressed to the final ahead of Leinster opposition as, for a second year running, both semi-finals went to penalty strokes.

St Andrew’s fell 3-0 to Banbridge in their competition after Bell’s late flick tied up a game which the Dubliners led for a long period. Wesley were undone on the eighth round of sudden death penalties, 7-6, by Cookstown. Sloan had put the Ulster side in front with time running out before Kirk Shimmins gave his side a lifeline but they could not see it home in the shoot-out.

Umpires: Andrew Gray, Malcolm Coombes

Banbridge Academy: M Anderson, T Sturgeon, M Bell, P Brown, A Bingham, B Cosgrove, R Woods, O Magee, J McKee, P Bennington, M Duggan
Subs: J McDermott, A Dickson, M Colussi, C Dillon-Burns, A Ferguson

Cookstown HS: J Kirkpatrick, A Ferguson, D Crooks, I Johnston, I Sloan, P Watt, T Johnston, R Donaldson, C Anderson, M Rollins, R Johnston
Subs: R Millar, P Johnston, A Gillis, J Anderson, S Nelson

All-Ireland Schoolboy’s Championships
Semi-finals: St Andrew’s 1 (F Maher) Banbridge 1 (M Bell), Banbridge won 3-0 on penalties; Wesley 1 (K Shimmins) Cookstown HS 1 (I Sloan), Cookstown won 7-6 on penalties.
Final: Banbridge 2 (M Bell, O Magee) Cookstown 1 (T Johnston)

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