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Oran Johnston the hero as Edmund Rice win Belfast Senior Schools' Cup

Edmund Rice 2-1 Grosvenor

By Martin Mawhinney

He may be only 15 years of age, but Oran Johnston already has a couple of major winning memories to last him a lifetime after scoring the winner in Edmund Rice College's 2-1 comeback win over Grosvenor in yesterday's Belfast Senior Schools' Cup final at New Grosvenor Stadium.

The plucky frontman has a knack of popping up at the crucial moment, with this strike following on from the one he netted for his school in last season's Under-15 final win over Clounagh Junior High School.

That was the first time Edmund Rice had won the Under-15 title, but this was arguably an even bigger feat, as not only was it also the Glengormley school's first time getting their hands on the Senior Cup, but Johnston's goal arrived at a time when his side had been playing with 10 men, following an earlier red card.

"I do seem to like scoring in finals," reflected the Cliftonville Under-16 player, who took his tally for the competition to four with his all-important winner.

"It's a great feeling, and it was a brilliant effort by all the lads to achieve this."

No question about it, Grosvenor were the dominant force from the off, and it wasn't long before they had made their dominance count.

Just 12 minutes were on the clock when a long-range free-kick from Conor Kernohan was flicked on to Daniel Larmour, who chested down before swivelling to thump past the helpless Michael McGreevy.

The east Belfast pupils thought their side had extended their lead six minutes later after Joshua Kelly tucked the ball into the bottom right-hand corner from a Kernohan through-ball… but the linesman had already signalled offside.

Nonetheless, Edmund Rice didn't let their heads drop as they went in search of an equaliser. Jamie McCormick summed up their positive spirit as he attempted a searching ball forward to Johnston, but Tim Larmour was quickly off his line to save easily.

Even more ambitious was Kernohan's lobbed effort from 70 yards at the other end, soaring harmlessly over the goal.

Grosvenor were left rueing the fact that they hadn't made more of their early supremacy, when Edmund Rice levelled the scores in the 34th minute.

Jack McAlinden delivered the decisive free-kick from 25 yards out, and although several attackers lunged for it on the bounce, throwing Tim Larmour off guard, none made a connection and the ball crashed in off the bar.

Cheered on by a vociferous support, Grosvenor began the second half much like the first, and twice came close to scoring within 10 minutes of the restart.

In the first instance, Daniel Martin's header from a corner was cleared off the line by the well-placed McCormick. In the second, Stuart Nelson caught the ball sweet after some promising possession play, but the effort dragged just wide of the post.

Then came the moment that looked certain to determine the game's outcome on the hour mark. It was a moment of madness from Robert McVarnock, whose rash off-the-ball challenge earned him a straight red card, just seconds after he had picked up a yellow for a previous foul.

Such a shame, too, as the substitute's introduction in the 28th minute seemed to have such a positive effect on his side's approach to the game.

Yet despite the numerical disadvantage, Edmund Rice ploughed on, and in the 69th minute, Johnston stepped up with the vital strike, breaking through to shrug off the challenge from Martin, and beat the advancing Tim Larmour.

A number of chances followed at both ends, but keeper Larmour and his opposite number Michael McGreevy both did their bit to ensure the scoreline remained the same.

Disappointed Grosvenor coach Darren Tomkins reflected after the game: "We played really well for the first 25 minutes, but then just seemed to stop for some reason.

"Credit to Edmund Rice, though, they took their chances, and in the end, they deserved what they got."

EDMUND RICE COLLEGE: M McGreevy, McGuinness, McAlinden, McFadden, Whiteway, Craig, McCormick, Sullivan (McVarnock 28), Skelly, Gilmour, Johnston (Brophy 77). Subs not used: Lavery, L McGreevy, Keenan, Doherty.

Grosvenor Grammar: T. Larmour, Wallace (Clarke), Garrett, D. Larmour, Todorov (Davies 53), Nelson, Elliott, Tumilson, Kelly, Martin, Kernohan. Subs not used: Titterington, Ennis, Pengelly, Browne.

Man of the match: Jack McAlinden (Edmund Rice College)

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Tony Clarke (Newtownabbey)

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