Holy Cross Strabane lost narrowly to a talented St Malachy’s Castlewellan in the final of the Markey Cup at Dunmoyle on Thursday in a close, competitive and highly entertaining game that was well refereed by Errigal whistler Mark Loughran. A huge crowd of supporters from both schools filled the stand while the car park was jammed to capacity with private hire buses from long before the start.
As for the game itself both sides enjoyed periods of dominance but it was the Down school’s ability to create and take scores from midfield and defence that ultimately proved decisive as St Malachy’s finished finished strongly to win 2-12 to 1-13.
Holy Cross opened the scoring after twenty seconds when full forward Corin Mc Connell fired over with their first attack. The Castlewellan response was almost immediate as their full forward Eoghan Travers bagged the first of his team’s two goals before Rory Madine fired over a fine point with less than three minutes on the clock.
Questions were being asked of the Strabane lads who looked nervous early on. However they began to find their feet and although playing against the wind points from Aidan Hegarty and Conor Langan levelled the game after fifteen minutes. Things got even better for Holy Cross when team captain Langan hit the net to put his team three in front. Points from Ben Arnold and Langan stretched the Strabane lead to five points with twenty minutes on the clock.
However for the remainder of the half it was Castlewellan who controlled the play. Driven on by Savage and Madine in the full forward line, Ross Green at full back and Tadgh O’Hanlon in the middle of the park they set about closing the gap. Points from O’Hanlon, Green and Madine got the Down lads very much back in the game. Chris Kelly Mc Elroy drove forward using the wind to fire over before Rory Madine levelled the game with a superb score from play.
Just when it seemed we might go in at the break tied at 1-6 apiece up stepped Holy Cross centre forward Josh Gallagher to put his team ahead again. However there was still time for one more attack and the impressive Rory Madine found the net with virtually the last touch of the first half to leave the half time score 2-6 to 1-7 in favour of Castlewellan.
The second half saw Holy Cross on top early on with points from Conor Langan (2) and Dara Dooher to lead 1-10 to 2-6. However scores and scoring chances became more difficult to come by as the two teams worked hard to win possession as legs tired and cramp became an issue for both teams.
Langan added a brace of points before Green and O’Hanlon replied for Castlewellan to keep the game tight.
When team captain Langan put Holy Cross ahead again with six minutes remaining it seemed that the possibility of a historic win was on. Sadly for the Strabane school St Malachy’s seemed to move up a gear and took the game by the scruff of the neck in the closing minutes to add the final three scores from O’Hanlon, James Savage and Chris Kelly Mc Elroy to win 2-12 to 1-13.
St.Malachys Castlewellan: C Travers, L Brannigan, R Green (0-2), S Baker, O Murray, C Trainor, H Keenan, T O’Hanlon (0-3), C McEvoy (0-3, 2F
), D McGreevy, J Savage (0-1), M Middleton, R Madine (1-3, 1M), E Travers (1-0), C Flanagan. Subs: O McCann for Baker, R McCourt for Flanagan, D Trainor for Middleton
Holy Cross Strabane: R Ward, JP McMenamin, C Gallagher, R Tourish, C Flannagan, R McLaughlin, A Hegarty (0-1), D Bradley, C McMenamin, B Arnold, J Gallagher (0-1), O Kelly (0-1), D Dooher (0-1), C McConnell (0-3, 2F), C Langan (1-6, 4F). Subs: O White for Arnold, D Devlin for C McMenamin