Despite leading by a brace of goals on two occasions – including being ahead by 3-1 with less than five minutes of normal time remaining – the senior soccer side from Our Lady’s Secondary School, Belmullet, suffered the heartache of losing last Wednesday afternoon’s epic John Murphy Cup final in extra-time to St Peter’s Community School, Passage West, at the resplendent Mullingar Athletic AFC complex.
St Peter’s hero was 79th-minute substitute, Craig Crowley, who scored twice (including the extra-time winner ) and had a vital assist for Kealon Flynn’s 86th-minute goal which paved the way for his side’s Lazarus-like comeback.
The Mayo lads, wearing a changed pink jersey, took the lead in the ninth minute when a free kick on the edge of the box by Tom Ivan (after Peter Cafferkey was fouled ) was met by a glancing header from team captain James Kelly. Belmullet doubled their lead some five minutes later, good approach play from Eoghan McGrath teeing up Peter Cafferkey whose low shot from 10 metres squirmed under the diving Thomas O’Neill.
The Cork outfit came back into contention in the 38th minute when a free kick from his own half by David Power was touched on by Maciek Jany for Brendan Kenny to volley home from close range. Our Lady’s deservedly led 2-1 at the break. However, two golden opportunities to pull away had been missed by Sean Cafferky and Justin Healy in the 35th and 43rd minutes respectively.
Midway through the second moiety, persistence inside the box from Justin Healy was rewarded with what looked like the decisive goal. With time running out, the cup seemed certain to be heading across the Shannon, but Craig Crowley had other ideas, and he got a vital touch to Ronan Cooney’s 86th-minute corner to set up Kealon Flynn who scored from point-blank range. Within a minute of the restart it was 3-3, Crowley latching onto David Power’s pass (after a mazy dribble goalward by the defender ) and lofting the ball to the back of the net, prompting the large Cork contingent to invade the pitch.
The Our Lady’s lads were clearly rattled and, five minutes into the first period of extra-time, a low cross from Kenny was controlled by Crowley six metres from goal and the super-sub neatly slotted the ball past Aaron Healy. Cue another pitch invasion by red and black-clad fans. Try as they might, the Mayo boys could not muster an equaliser, and the last couple of minutes saw futile efforts from Aaron Healy to loft the ball into the winners’ box.
St Peter’s Community School, Passage West: Thomas O’Neill (Scott Coughlan, 66 ), Eoghan Walsh, Liam Cotter, Maciek Jany, Kealon Flynn, David Power (Joe Brown, e/t 6 ), Brendan Kenny, Killian Murphy, Tony McCarthy (Craig Crowley, 79 ), Nick Snow (Liam Nolan, 72 ), Ronan Cooney (Sean O’Reilly, e/t 17 ).
Our Lady’s Secondary School, Belmullet: Aaron Healy, Einri Healy (Marty Boylan, h-t ), James Deane, Joe Mason, Eoghan McGrath, Tom Ivan (Darragh Murray, 75 ), Ryan O’Donoghue, James Kelly (Evan Conmey, e/t 10 ), Peter Cafferkey (Daithi O’Donoghue, e/t 10 ), Justin Healy, Sean Cafferkey (Niall Walsh, start of e/t ).
Referee: Declan Foran (Mullingar ).