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Historic St Ronan's win is for all the people of Lurgan, says Wilson

St Ronan's 1-10 Rice College 1-09

Winning ways: Ecstatic St Ronan’s College, Lurgan players celebrate in style following their historic Hogan Cup triumph at Croke Park
Winning ways: Ecstatic St Ronan’s College, Lurgan players celebrate in style following their historic Hogan Cup triumph at Croke Park
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Hail the history makers! St Ronan's, a mere babe in arms in an Ulster Colleges context, rocketed into uncharted territory in spectacular fashion at Croke Park when they defied tradition, the pundits and most of all the cynics in claiming the Hogan Cup for the first time.

Three years ago, St Ronan's were unheard of, a school that morphed from three other seats of learning in bustling Lurgan to tiptoe into mainstream colleges GAA.

Yet today they sit proudly at the top of their sporting tree, spirited there by a triumph born of character, courage and skill - assets that have now been honed to as near perfection as possible by a resolute management trio comprising of David Wilson, Mickey Donnelly and Collie Fegan.

St Ronan's trajectory over these hypnotic past few weeks has traced the flight path of their destiny, ushering them into a sporting paradise against considerable odds.

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For Wilson, who as player, coach and manager has stamped an indelible imprint on the GAA in Lurgan, this glorious coup is particularly special.

"I have yearned to see a Lurgan school gain success on the national stage but I could never have dreamt that this would come about in such a manner," stated Wilson, a long-standing St Peter's club stalwart. "We had been impressing on the lads the importance of being able to close out games and to say that they did this effectively against Rice College would be an understatement.

"We have now won three trophies this school year - the McCormack Cup, the MacRory Cup and now the Hogan Cup. We have played 10 competitive matches in all and remained unbeaten - I think this says it all about the psyche, dedication and pride in this side."

In a team of heroes, it was the ice-cool Oisin Smyth who applied the coup de grace on a never-to-be-forgotten occasion when he powered over the winning point to send St Ronan's huge following into dreamland.

Yet it had been touch and go earlier. If Eoin McConville's accuracy from long-range frees underpinned St Ronan's first half efforts, it was still not enough to prevent a gallant Rice College from holding a two-point interval lead which had its thrust in a Kieran Joyce effort that was deflected to the Lurgan side's net by a defender.

St Ronan's, though, would surely have stolen a march on their Mayo opponents had their rivals' goalkeeper Cian Kennedy not distinguished himself with two superb saves from Rioghan Meehan and Ruairi McConville.

Rice College led by 1-5 to 0-6 at the interval but when Tiarnan Kelly somehow managed to squeeze the ball into the Rice College net in the third quarter, he initiated a closing St Ronan's surge that was to propel them into a sporting paradise.

It was when the sides were deadlocked at 1-8 that unbearable apprehension engulfed the Lurgan team's supporters.

But after the impressive Adam Loughran had flighted over his second point, it was the mercurial Smyth who, from under the shadow of the Hogan Stand, unleashed a torpedo that was to chronicle a whole new chapter in Hogan Cup history.

At 1-10 to 1-9, St Ronan's still had to survive a late free from Rice College which veered off target - further proof, perhaps, that the gods were smiling benignly on the Lurgan lads.

And fittingly, in the times that are in it, Wilson delivered perhaps the most succinct observation of all when he declared: "This win is for the people of Lurgan - all the people of Lurgan."

St Ronan's College, Lurgan: L Mulholland; E McCluskey, A Mulholland, J Haddock; A McCreanor, J Lamont, J Haughey; J Lenehan, T Kelly 1-0; O Smyth 0-4, A Loughran 0-2, R Meehan 0-1; R McConville, L Monteiro, E McConville 0-3, (2'45's ,1f). Subs: M McAfee, J Megoran.

Rice College, Westport: C Kennedy; L Dawson, R Brickenden, R Walsh; J Carney, E McLaughlin, M Brady; F McManamon, P Chambers; K Joyce 1-1, M Moran 0-2, L Tunney; S Loftus 0-4 (1f), P Lambert 0-2 (1f), C Heaney. Subs: C Calvey, J McGlynn.

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).

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