BANAGHER College retained their Leinster title with this four point win over the Coláiste Mhuire Johnstown / Coláiste Pobal Osraí amalgamation at blustery O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday.
Lining out without proven score-getter Conor Martin, Johnstown were dealt a hammer blow with the sending off of centre half-back Brendan Murphy on a straight red card with only 13 minutes gone. A red card was a harsh enough call by referee Anthony Stapleton for a challenge that merited a yellow card at most.
With the sides level at that stage, 0-3 each, Trevor Moran dispatched the resultant 20m free to the Johnstown net, a score that set Banagher on their way to the title.
A much more competitive final was anticipated, not least with the sides having finished level in the opening round in October. Johnstown’s three-point win over Banagher in last year’s Leinster Junior decider was another form-guide.
Short a defensive pillar and their top scorer, Johnstown strangely hurled without any real belief and Banagher went on to dominate territory and possession for much of the remainder of the game.
That Banagher’s winning margin was a mere four point owed much to their inability to create the clear scoring chances their dominance warranted.
Too often in possession, Banagher hurlers were inclined to turn onto their favoured side when a quicker delivery would have paid better dividends. That hesitancy invited the Johnstown tackles and the possession was slowed down, or lost altogether.
Pat Camon gave a master class of centre-back play. His reading of the game and anticipation of the play ensured he dominated in the pivotal position, while his clearances and the quality of his deliveries to the attack kept Banagher on the front foot for most of the game.
On his left, Seán Gardiner also drove some great, low ball to the full-forward line. That low ball was crucial, particularly in the first half when Banagher faced into the difficult, swirling wind.
Mid-fielder Joey O’Connor got through quite an amount of good work at midfield, covering in defence, beavering on the ground and supporting his attack with some surging runs, one of which yielded a fine second-half point. His mid-field partner Daniel Smith also hurled well in this sector.
Goalkeeper Conor Clancy again proved his quality with a fine early save, Niall Wynne performed the ‘free man’ role expertly ensuring Simon Lyons and Colm Daly enjoyed a relatively quiet day in the full-back line.
Banagher enjoyed a good start and early points from Trevor Moran (free) and Daryl Duane which followed great low ball from defence gave them an ideal start hurling into the wind.
Johnstown settled though and as they began to win more of the breaking ball, three points from long range placed balls converted by William Brennan gave them the lead 0-3 to 0-2.
Trevor Moran levelled matters with a pointed free from 50m before the sending off of Brendan Murphy, and Moran sent the 20m free to the Johnstown net.
Banagher dominated the play but were unable to convert that play into scores and twice Johnstown reduced their arrears to a single point, 1-3 to 0-5 in the 19th minute, and after Trevor Moran pointed on the turn after Seán Gardiner picked him out with another fine delivery, William Brennan replied with another long free, 1-4 to 0-6.
Johnstown wing-back Brendan Quinn, in particular, was keeping his side in the hunt with some good defensive hurling, while full-back Lactain Kennedy was doing well in the face of Trevor Moran’s constant threat.
Rory Wynne’s fine point in first half stoppage time left Banagher in a strong position with a 1-5 to 0-6 lead at the break.
Banagher resumed the second half in complete command but found it difficult to score, their first three scoring attempts being off-target before Joey O’Connor got them off the mark with a neat pick-up, typical run and a good point.
The Banagher goal which followed in the 36th minute owed something to good fortune. O’Connor’s line-ball into the danger area somehow eluded forwards, backs and the goalkeeper and Ethan Mannion was on hand to sweep the loose ball to the empty net from close range, the goal extending the lead to 2-6 to 0-6.
Banagher continued to miss the target in the wind-tunnel that is O’Moore Park, but Ethan Mannion’s second goal in the 49th minute extended the lead to eight points. Seán Gardiner’s delivery found Trevor Moran who worked hard to pick out Mannion with a trademark overarm handpass. Mannion’s ground stroke somehow deceived goalkeeper Shane Moriarty and after some hesitancy the umpire reached for the green flag.
In typical Kilkenny fashion, Johnstown coolly went about their business and Shane Donnelly’s fine solo goal when he eluded two defenders reduced the gap to a manageable proportion. Moran pointed a free in reply and O’Connor pointed for the insurance score.
Johnstown were awarded a penalty in stoppage time which William Brennan fired low to the net but Banagher prevailed.
BANAGHER COLLEGE: Conor Clancy; Colm Daly, Simon Lyons, Niall Wynne; Darren Hopkins, Pat Camon (capt.), Seán Gardiner; Daniel Smith, Joey O’Connor; Alan Camon, Rory Wynne, Jamie Lewis; Daryl Duane, Trevor Moran, Ethan Mannion.
Subs: John Hynes for D Duane (40 mins), Michael Coughlan for A Camon (51 mins), Shane Kenny for T Moran (58 mins), Matthew Maloney for D Smith (60 mins).
COLÁISTE MHUIRE JOHNSTOWN / COLÁISTE POBAL OSRAÍ: Shane Moriarty; Toddy Moriarty, Lactain Kennedy, Ciarán Bergin; Brendan Quinn, Brendan Murphy, Jason Stanley; William Brennan, Anthony Farrell; Dónal Wilson, Jamie Ryan (capt.), Kevin Sweeney; Dennis Lennon, James Kenny, Shane Donnelly.
Subs: Liam Hickey for D Wilson (38 mins), Shane Quinlan for J Stanley blood (39 mins), Frank Phelan for K Sweeney (49 mins).
REFEREE: Anthony Stapleton, Laois.
Banagher College: Trevor Moran (1-4, 1-3 frees), Ethan Mannion (2-0), Rory Wynne (0-2), Joey O’Connor (0-2), Daryl Duane (0-1), Alan Camon (0-1).
Coláiste Mhuire Johnstown / Coláiste Pobal Osraí: William Brennan (1-5, 1-0 pen, 0-4 frees, 0-1 ’65), Shane Donnelly (1-0), Kevin Sweeney (0-2, 0-1 free), Anthony Farrell (0-1), Denis Lennon (0-1).
Banagher College 9 (1 1st half); Coláiste Mhuire Johnstown / Coláiste Pobal Osraí 5 (4 1st half).
Red (1): Brendan Murphy (13 mins). Yellow (1): Seán Gardiner (9 mins).
BANAGHER and Johnstown is very much a traditional Leinster Vocational Schools final. This, Banagher’s 14th title win extends their lead at the top of the roll-of-honour over Johnstown, who themselves have won the title ten times. Their nearest challenger is Rathdowney who have five titles, while Kilcormac, Enniscorthy and Thomastown each won the title twice.
Spreading their wings
BANAGHER College won the All-Ireland title last year with players from just three clubs (St Rynagh’s, Lusmagh and Meelick-Eyrecourt) contributing. That number of clubs has been extended this year with Lorrha’s Daniel Smith and Jamie Lewis lining out, while Kiltormer is wing-back Darren Hopkins’ club. That number of clubs was further extended with the introduction of second-half sub Shane Kenny from Belmont.
Survivors from ‘09
A schools team will, by its very nature, have a considerable turnover of players year-on-year. Banagher are fortunate to be able to call on the services of eight of the side which started last year’s All-Ireland final. Conor Clancy, Simon Lyons, Niall Wynne, Pat Camon, Seán Gardiner, Joey O’Connor, Ethan Mannion and Trevor Moran were all starters on that memorable Easter Saturday afternoon, while Rory Wynne was introduced as a sub. In addition, Lyons, Camon and Moran were hurling in their third Leinster final having lined out against Johnstown in 2009 also. Quite an amount of leadership to be able to call upon.
THE merger of Coláiste Mhuire Johnstown and the Kilkenny City Gaelscoil, Coláiste Pobal Osraí, for this competition caused some degree of controversy. Consequently Johnstown were able to call upon the services of Lactain Kennedy and Brendan Murphy, both students of the Gaelscoil, who lined out at full-back and centre-back respectively. Murphy though had a day to forget after his early dismissal.
Next on the list
BANAGHER College now advance to the All-Ireland series where they will meet the Connacht champions (yet to be decided) in the semi-final. All is not lost for the Johnstown boys though as they too qualify for the All-Ireland semi-final where they will meet the Munster winners. Every second year the Leinster and Munster runners-up alternate to provide a fourth semi-finalist and this year is the turn of the Leinster runners-up to advance.