Holy Trinity’s hopes of retaining the All-Ireland U18 Vocational Schools title and becoming the last winners of the competition ended in disappointment at Croke Park on Saturday afternoon when they lost out to Cnoc Mhuire, Granard, writes Kevin Kelly.
It was a game on which the Tyrone lads will look back on with regret as they failed to play the football that they are capable of and it was only in the final quarter were they looked as though they could win the silverware again.
At that stage, they were nine points in arrears but they mounted a spirited comeback that saw them just come up short by the minimum margin in the end.
During that frantic finish they missed a couple of chances that would have forced extra time but that just about summed up their day as they registered twelve wides during the course of the game.
Joint manager Adrian O’Donnell was naturally very disappointed afterwards although he praised his players for the fightback that they produced.
“We just didn’t perform on the day and we always had that fear coming down here today. When you do win titles like this you perhaps take it for granted and unlike last year when we kicked on after getting on top we just left it too late there” he said. “If it had gone to extra time I could only see one winner as the momentum had totally changed in our favour but unfortunately we played poorly for forty five minutes and fifteen minutes football isn’t going to win you an All-Ireland final.
“I think when we moved Darren Devlin to midfield it made a huge difference and we had our chances to take the game to extra time. There were so many unforced errors and men just seemed to be too nervous.
“Even when they went down a man and we were getting instructions onto the pitch they just didn’t seem to be picking them up as sharply as we would have liked them to.
“All in all we will give credit to Granard on their win. We are just disappointed that we left it too late to play our best football. We are still proud of our players and proud of their fight back there in the second half.”
Holy Trinity had the wind at their backs and they got off to a great strat when a dangerous high ball in from midfielder Frank Burns was flicked to the net by his Pomeroy clubmate Ryan Loughran.
That was the only time that they were to lead though as the outstanding David McGivney began to pull the strings in the midfield engine room for the winners.
Aidan McElligott did well to keep his eye on the ball to punch in a seventh minute goal for a lead that Granard were never to lose.
Rian Brady, who tormented the Holy Trinity defence in the first half, landed three breathtaking points while he also provided the assist for Nigel Rabbitt to score his side’s second goal.
James McGahan and David Mulgrew replied with points for Holy Trinity but they had it all to do in the second half despite having a man advantage, goal scorer McElligott picking up a second booking seven minutes before the interval.
The winners picked up where they had left off with McGiveney, Brady and Liam Sullivan all on target within five minutes to edge them 2-10 to 1-4 in front.
Substitute Gavin Goodfellow opened Holy Trinity’s second half account with Macauley Quinn following that up with a superb score as well but back came Granard with scores from McGivney and Fionnan O’Reilly to keep their opponents at arm’s length.
In the final dozen minutes or so the holders really came back in style. McGahan, Daryl Magee, Loughran and substitute Jason Rocks all had points with Rocks also grabbing a gola as they trimmed the gap to the minimum.
Substitute Damian Woods then did brilliantly to win a loose ball twice before laying it off to Magee who in turn found McGahan but the full forward shot wide from a good position.
Deep into injury time Holy Trinity were reduced to fourteen men when Rocks was straight red carded as a relieved Cnoc Mhuire managed to determinedly cling on.