A 64th minute goal from Jack Reid undid St Gerald's College, Castlebar, ambitions of an FAI Schools Minor Boys All-Ireland title at Athlone Town FC on Tuesday. St Gerard's had beaten Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair by a single goal from James McGinty in their All-Ireland semi-final encounter, and once again a lone goal provided the difference, but Tom Byrne's charges were not on the right side of the result this time around. It was a a double heartbreak for the Castlebar outfit, who were denied an All-Ireland Junior Cup final berth last month, after losing to Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana, in the penultimate round.
The Mayo men had a strong height advantage throughout the field but the Westmeath outfit's height disadvantage was made up with a strong self-belief, as they dug deep, with Reid's late goal ensuring silverware. Rochfortbridge were managed by ex-Athlone Town player Damien Rushe - and the St Joseph's teacher was keen that a return to his old stomping ground would finish in a victory.
Gerald’s were forced to make one change to their side for this decider, with Cathal Lisibach picking up an injury prior to the decider and replaced by Anthony Lawless for this game. St Joseph's were boosted by the return of David Etcheri from suspension, after he missed the All-Ireland semi-final win due to his dismissal in the Leinster decider. Skipper Sean Quinn led by example in the Rochfortbridge defence as any effort forward from the Westerners was halted by Quinn's impressive reading at the back. St Gerald’s Stephen McDermott and Sam Hastings were also finding their feet early on and combining well but just could not release the final ball to trouble versatile Rochfortbridge keeper Joe Hyland.
Eoin Grady and Gary Walsh provided ample opportunity for Irish International Noe Baba to impress as quality ball was drilled into him in regular supply. The talented Castlebar Celtic player was on form midway through the first period with the Gerard's captain's dramatic bicycle kick attempt foiled as the ball drifted just short of the right post.
Rochfortbridge were also handed chances with Finbar Coyne missing an open goal on 23 minutes, after Paul Walsh had cleared a long deliverance from Sam Plant. Three minutes later Castlebar were on a counter-attack but Baba’s free kick from 30 yards out was confidently managed out of the danger area by the in-form Walsh. Castlebar had the last chances of the half with Matthew Ruane missing from a well placed corner kick and Baba's 20-yard kick drifted high off the goalmouth.
Both sides were still well in contention as the second half kicked off, and again plenty of goal scoring chances fell to both sides. A Jack Reid goal on 64 minutes broke the deadlock, after the Doyle brothers and Geoghegan combined well to set up Reid, who slotted the ball to the net after being placed one-on-one with Gerard's keeper Paul Walsh. Tom Byrne’s men had been enjoying the better football prior to this and the mantle never wavered once they conceded. Castlebar continued to drive the game forward as St Joseph’s were under the cosh for the remaining six minutes of normal time. Castlebar created plenty of chances late on with James McGinty slicing the ball over the far post while Sam Hastings was unlucky not to do better from close range. It was heartache for St Gerald’s after a gallant display that well warranted an All Ireland appearance, and on another day it could have been a different story for the Mayo men but St Joseph’s took the chances awarded to them and deserved the momentous win.
St Gerald’s: P Walsh; R Collins, J O’Malley, M Ruane, S Keaney; N Baba, E Grady, G Walsh, J McGinty; S McDermott, S Hastings. Subs: A Lawless, D Coll, M McDonnell, D Ralph, A Campbell.
St. Joseph’s: J Hyland; C Moran, P Lawlor, S Quinn, K Doyle; S Plant, F Coyne, D Etcheri, C Doyle; J Reid, M Geoghegan.