St Joseph's College, Garbally, Ballinasloe 11
Marist College, Athone 23
Ballinasloe's Garbally College were denied a 45th Connacht Senior Schools' Cup and their first in six years by defending champions Marist Athlone at the Galway Sportsground yesterday.
Despite a battling display, particularly in the second half, Garbally's youth and inexperience was a telling factor against a side brimming with representative players.
Although seeking their 45th title, Garbally were contesting their first decider since 2007, the last year of boarding at the school. On that occasion they were 25 - 18 winners over Marist, who were still trying to break through at senior level. Although the Ballinasloe school could not repeat that victory over Marist yesterday, current coach Michael Horan can take huge credit in keeping rugby alive at the school in the interim.
It took nine minutes before the holders established any territorial control thanks to a delicate grubber from outhalf Barry Goode, who scored 13 point for his side. After patiently going through the phases, Marist earned their first penalty when Garbally were penalised at the breakdown, but Goode was well wide with his effort from the left touchline after 13 minutes.
However he made amends three minutes later from the same position after the Ballinasloe school once conceded at the breakdown for a third time, and as a result No 8 and captain Jack Codyre was yellow carded for not rolling away after the tackle.
As Garbally struggled to escape their own half, Marist continued to dominate the territorial stakes. The Athlone school should have scored the opening try after 24 minutes, but they failed to take advantage of a gaping overlap with a forward pass. However within two minutes right wing Harry Hughes ran in from 20m to score in the corner, and a super touchline conversion from Goode gave the title holders a 10- 0 lead after 27 minutes.
Goode struck a second penalty three minutes later when the Ballinasloe outfit were caught offside at the ruck, stretching the lead kick to stretch the lead. a 10- 0 lead after 27 minutes. When Garbally were once again penalised at the breakdown, Goode struck another kick to stretch the lead.
Ballinasloe, with Simon Keller directing a youthful backline, which featured Andrew Mannion, son of former Connacht and Ireland flanker Noel, found it difficult to penetrate their bigger opponents, and although they remained committed in the tackle, they were unable to make any headway before the break as Marist led 13 -0.
Garbally started brightly in the second half with a penetrating kick from Keller which Athlone were forced to put into touch. But the resulting line-out went awry and with it Garbally's first chance to open their account. They did not have long to wait, however, when scrumhalf and captain Sean Horan struck a 30m penalty two minutes later after the Athlone outfit were caught offside to reduce the arrears to 10 points.
Two minutes later Goode restored the lead with a 22 minute penalty, but in a second half dominated by penalties, Marist found themselves conceding at the breakdown for a side entry, and Horan potted his second effort two minutes later.
The game swung in Garbally's favour, thanks to some astute line kicking, and when Marist centre Sean Dempsey was sinbinned for impeding a Garbally player, the 44-times champions laid siege on the Marist line. Lock Peter Claffey's charge to the line was held up, but No 8 Jack Codyre was able to smuggle the ball over the line for Ballinasloe try. Horan added the conversion, reducing the deficit to 11-16 to give the title challengers some hope of causing an upset.
However Marist sealed the match two minutes later when Robbie McMicken crossed for his side's second try after a superb touchline run and Goode added the extras to ensure his side grabbed their third - their second on the bounce.
In the curtainraiser between the two Senior Development Cup finalists, St Enda's prevailed by over Clifden Community School by 10-7. Clifden took a 7-0 lead into the second half after captain and outhalf Patrick King grabbed a try which Jack Shannon converted, but the Galway city school were deserving winners, with prop Joseph Ugbo crossing early in the second half for one of three try-scoring opportunities. Fullback Stephen Killeen added the conversion and then sealed the victory with a penalty.
Garbally College: A Mannion, R Kelly, C Barrett, I Duffy, S Tierney, S Keller, S Horan, D Walshe, P Gilsenon, D O'Hara, P Claffey, S Holland, D Connolly, D Curley, J Codyre (cpt ).
Replacements, S Lyons for Walsh, C Dooley for Mannion (69m ), B Wilmore for Connolly (74m ).
Marist College: E O'Reilly, H Hughes, S Dempsey, C Langdon, R McMicken, B Goode, R Ashe (cpt ), J Gormley, J O'Meara, C O'Brien, J Flynn, C White, B Cooper, E Glavin.
Replacements , C Morrissey for Cooper (65m ), S Meunarga for O'Meara (66m ), T Finucane for Langdon and C McMicken for Gode (69m ).