It was fitting that Rice College picked up their first every Connacht GAA Post Primary Schools A title in the home town of the most famous nursery of schools football in the province on Saturday.
Schools finals always bring their own different kind of atmosphere and this one was no different with a small band of Rice College supporters taking up station behind the far goal, with a the St Attracta’s hard core just to their right.
Two small islands of passionate supporters away from the mass of bodies taking shelter in the stand, on a wet and squirmy day in north Galway.
The game was won through hard work on the field and the hours of even tougher slog on the training fields since September and through the winter.
The game got underway in a fog of smoke with a flare going off on the far side of the ground, but that didn’t stop Rice College from hitting the ground running.
They were four points clear inside the opening six minutes with Keith Joyce Pat Lambert, Stephen Loftus and Patrick Chambers all on target.
The Sligo side stemmed the early tide and hit back with a four point salvo of their own through a brace of Red Og Murphy frees and scores from Conor Murray and Paul Towey.
Westport hit the front again with Joyce kicking his second of the day 17 minutes in, but two minutes later it looked like they were dealt a serious blow one Fintan McManamon was sent to the line for a lazy but hardly dangerous challenge.
Being down to 14 men only inspired the Rice College men further and they outscore their opponents 0-4 to 0-1 over the closing 11 minutes, with Loftus, Mark Moran, Lambert and Joyce all slamming the ball over the bar.
Rice lead 0-9 to 0-5 at the short whistle and right after the restart they had to call on goalkeeper Cian Kennedy to pull off one of two big saves he made in the game to keep that gap, when he got down well to stop Alan Reilly’s close range effort.
Rice tagged on two quick scores after that scare through Luke Tunney and Chambers. They were responded to by a brace of frees from Red Og Murphy.
The decisive score of the contes came 43 minutes in when Keith Joyce leapt highest to palm the ball to the back of the net from close range to put his side seven clear and looking home and hosed.
St Attracta’s where thrown a lifeline ten minutes from time, when Mark Lundy was hauled to the ground by Ray Walsh inside the penalty area.
Og Murphy stepped up to take the spot kick, he hit it low and hard to the bottom corner, but Kennedy was equal to the effort and pushed it away to safety.
With that miss went the Tubbercurry school’s chances of getting back into the game and Rice College held on to claim their first ever Connacht Post Primary Schools A title.
Rice College: K Joyce (1-3 ), S Loftus (0-3,2f ), P Lambert (0-3, 1f ), P Chambers (0-2 ), L Tunney (0-1 ), M Moran (0-1 )
St Attracta’s: R Og Murphy (0-5, 4f, 1 45 ), C Murray (0-1 ), L Kerrigan (0-1 ), P Towey (0-1, 1f ), M Lundy (0-1 ), R Bailey (0-1 )
Rice College: C Kennedy; L Dawson, R Brickenden, R Walsh; J Carney, E McLaughlin, M Brady; F McManamon, P Chambers; K Joyce, M Moran, L Tunney; S Loftus, P Lambert, C Heaney. Subs: K McGuire, C Calvey, R Haper.
St Attracta’s: G Gallagher; D Barrett, O Grehan, O McCann; L Kerrigan, K O’Hara, N Connolly; G Gorman, C Murray; P Towey, A Reilly, K O’Kennedy; R Og Murphy, C Ryan, E Sweeney. Subs: M Clavin (BS ), M Clavin, J Durkin, M Lundy, R Bailey, P Connolly.
Ref: M Flaherty