St Mary's College is once again flying the flag for Galway football after winning this year’s UMBRO FAI Schools Senior Cup final.
Mary’s were crowned champions at Flancare Park on Thursday following an enthralling final victory over Salesian College, Celbridge.
Although forced into extra-time by a resilient Salesian side, St Mary’s conjured the winning goal through Tony Ward in the final minute as a penalty shoot-out loomed.
Salesian, past winners of all the national schools titles except the senior cup, started the brighter with Michael Brown's swirling free-kick on 10 minutes requiring back-peddling goalkeeper Ronan Burke to tip over the bar.
At the other end the Galway school began to turn the screw and a minute after Tomas Boyle nipped in to deny Shane Maughan a free header, Salesian stopper Shane McNamara did well to turn over Fiach O'Barra's 20th minute curling shot that looked destined for the top corner.
Five minutes later Maughan wasted a free-kick in a good position by blasting over and Sean Glynn was guilty of squandering the best chance of the opening half on 28 minutes as he cleared the crossbar with a shot from six yards after Shane Keogh's in-swinging free-kick was not dealt with by Salesian.
Ireland schools’ international Tomas Boyle was a whisker away from putting the Celbridge school ahead on 33 minutes when he tried to get a connection on Colm Smyth's cross, only for Burke to advance and touch it out for a corner.
It was all Salesian at that point and Michael O'Grady was unlucky to miss-hit his shot from the edge of the box after Michael Ilunga and Fergal Conway had combined to release him into the box.
The Saints fashioned the last opening of the half, three minutes before the interval, after Sean Glynn cushioned a header into the path of Maughan, but the striker failed to get any power as he nodded goalwards, allowing McNamara to palm the effort over for a corner.
It took just 20 seconds from the restart for the opening goal to arrive. St Mary's captain Barry McEntee ran into the space on the right to float a cross towards the back post where Sean Glynn rose to glance his header inside the post.
Mary's protected their lead efficiently, rarely letting Salesians' front pairing of Conway and Bonyo get a sight on goal.
But the introduction of substitutes Craig Phillips and Eoghan Markey injected a spark into their play and the pendulum began to swing towards the side chasing the tie.
Burke had to dive low to prevent Conway's shot sneaking into the corner on 71 minutes, but the pressure yielded an equaliser four minutes later. Substitute Phillips swung a long throw into the box and though Bonyo's shot smacked off the bar, O'Grady was quickest to react and drilled a low shot home from eight yards.
Aside from a missed chance from centre-back James Casserly when he was unable to get a proper connection to a left-wing cross, it appeared the game was heading for penalties. That was before Ward with seconds remaining latched onto a loose ball around the box before rounding McNamara and slotting home the winner.
Salesian College, Celbridge: Shane McNamara; Gavin Kane, Patrick Markey (Capt ), Tomas Boyle, Michael ILunga (Craig Phillips 50 ); Michael O'Grady, Colm Smyth, Michael Brown, Kevin Molloy (Eoghan Markey 65 ), Brian Bonyo, Fergal Conway. Teachers: Paddy McGovern and David Cryan
St Mary's College, Galway: Ronan Burke; Shane Gallagher, Eoin Walsh, James Casserly, Shane Keogh; Christian Lomboto, Fiach O'Bearra (Ruairi Lavelle 104 ), Barry McEntee (Capt ), Sean Glynn; Shane Maughan, Tony Ward. Teachers: Paul Concannon and Jason Moran
Referee: Paul Tone (Athlone ).