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Corrigan's in Hogan Cup heaven after St Michael's triumph

 

Fermanagh’s finest: St Michael’s players celebrate their first ever Hogan Cup after a tight, but deserved win in Croke Park
Fermanagh’s finest: St Michael’s players celebrate their first ever Hogan Cup after a tight, but deserved win in Croke Park
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

"We have strived and fought hard all those years but to have ended up with the Holy Grail ­today of the All-Ireland Colleges' A title, we're in heaven. We're in heaven and I will tell you what, if heaven when we depart this earth is anything like this here, I will want to go there."

Those were the words uttered by emotional St Michael's College manager Dominic Corrigan after he led the Enniskillen school to their first-ever Hogan Cup title in Croke Park on Saturday.

They beat Naas CBS by the minimum margin, but on the balance of it, utterly deserved the breakthrough title, having taken out the best of what was possible throughout the year.

They shipped an early goal here when a kickout went wrong, but hit back just two minutes later with a goal of thier own from Darragh O'Brien.

"I think that has been the secret of this team, being able to respond to setbacks," said Corrigan.

"We bounced back tremendously and we have been doing that all this season and we wouldn't be here today only for our ability to recover from setbacks.

"We weren't overly concerned about the goal - disappointed with conceding it, but we knew there was plenty of time to come back and nail scores ourselves. Fair play to Darragh who stuck away his goal magnificently and overall, words are failing me."

Thoughts turned to a Saturday night homecoming in Enniskillen town for a team that, if fate had been more kind, might have had a young promising player called Oisin McGrath in their ranks, the Belcoo youngster who died after a playground incident in 2015.

"An All-Ireland title to Fermanagh. It is going to be very proud, going to be very emotional," said Corrigan.

"I am going to have to contain myself because there has been long hours, serious time and work put into it over the years and the fact we get our hands on it today and the players asked me to go up and receive the cup, which is a nice touch from them. I was happy to do it. It was very special."

The all-Fermanagh team were much more economical in front of goal than their Kildare opponents, who frittered away nine wides in the second half, including two from Alex Beirne in the 65th and 68th minutes when it seemed the game was there to be taken to extra-time.

Both teams lined out with sweepers from the start, Paddy McDermott of Naas mirroring the role of St Michael's creative influence Josh Largo-Ellis, and occasionally dispensed of the role. St Michael's kicked a lot of ball to McDermott in the opening exchanges.

It was with a full press that Naas got the games' first goal on 13 minutes. St Michael's goalkeeper tried to find his man but he was swallowed up by Eoin Conneff who blasted his shot high to the net.

St Michael's responded with a major themselves two minutes later. Brandon Horan caught a Naas kickout and played in Darragh McBrien who got onto the right side of his marker to roll the ball home.

Another huge chance came five minutes when Conor Love was shunted by his marker to gain a sight of the Naas goal but he pulled his shot wide of the near post.

Despite that, St Michael's who along with being managed by former Fermanagh boss Dom Corrigan also had the nous of former Down player Conor Laverty and Tyrone's Richard Donnelly on the sideline, were deserving of their 1-6 to 1-4 lead at half-time.

The second half began with two Micheál Glynn points, the Northern Ireland schoolboy soccer international showing his class and a bit of leadership, while Love's movement in the inside line required surgery, with Naas withdrawing their full-back after 41 minutes.

For all that, Naas were making inroads into what was a four-point lead and certainly dominated the last quarter, taking heart from the six minutes of added-on time.

Eoin Archbold got forward for a point, followed by Tony O'Connor and an excellent Paddy McDermott point well worked from a free-kick.

However, the wide tally inched ever higher with two late misses from Beirne a cruel means in which to lose out.

"It's a tremendous lift to Fermanagh football. It's going to give energy to all aspects of Fermanagh football, from underage right up to senior level," added Corrigan.

"It is a fantastic victory for everybody involved and it is going to be a massive, massive tonic for Fermanagh football going forward."

ST MICHAEL'S: S McNally; L Flanagan, G Cavanagh, J Horan; A O'Cathain, J Largo-Ellis 0-1, R McHugh; B Horan (C), J McDade; C Duffy, M Glynn 0-7, 5f, D McBrien 1-1; P McKervey 0-1, C Love 0-2, T Keenan

Subs: G Treacy for McKervey (37m), G Quigley for Keenan (42m), C McAloon for Duffy (61m)

NAAS CBS: D Morrissey; J Lawler, C O'Gallachóbhair, J Hamill; K Quinn, E Archbold 0-1, P McDermott 0-2; J Cleary, L Broderick; T O'Connor 0-2, A Beirne, D Costello; M McGovern 0-4, 3f, D Hanafin, E Conneff 1-2

Subs: S Murphy for Hanifin (37m), C Boran for O'Gallachobhair (41m), R Monaghan for Broderick (43m), A Cassidy for Costello (50m), H Carroll for Archbold (58m), C Murphy for Conneff (60m)

Referee: Rory Hickey (Clare)

St Michael's1-12

Naas CBS1-11

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