There was heartbreak for Rice College of Westport in their first ever Hogan Cup final appearance at Croke Park on Saturday afternoon.
Despite leading for much of the game the Westport school were forced to chase St Ronan’s, Lurgan, in the final minutes as they looked to bring the All-Ireland final to extra-time.
Unfortunately three attempts at goal all drifted to the wrong side of the posts in the final five minutes and the Armagh school held on to pick up their first ever Hogan Cup victory.
A point from St Ronan’s Oisin Smyth in the 52nd minute hit off the outside of his boot from infront of the Hogan Stand proved to be the winner and a more fitting winner there couldn’t be in a game of tight margins.
St Ronan’s set the early pace of the game, dominating the opening five minutes but only had one point from Smyth to show for an extended period inside the Rice College half.
The Westport side took advantage of their first foray forward, however, when a 45 from Jack Carney fell short but Keith Joyce rose highest in a crowded goalmouth to fist the ball to the net. Stephen Loftus and Smyth would trade points a minute later to leave the Mayo side two ahead on ten minutes.
Heartbreak for Rice: Eoghan McLaughlin after Rice College's narrow defeat in the Hogan Cup Final. Photo: Sportsfile
Three unanswered scored from the Armagh school had them edge infront again by the 17 th minute but having settled into the game Rice college grew more confidant going forward. This was perfectly encapsulated by a magnificent score off the left boot by Joyce from almost the corner of the Hogan and Canal stands.
Despite their increased confidence on the front foot, Rice were finding it difficult to deal with Ronan’s direct attack. Leo Monteiro was causing all sorts of problems at full forward and he set up both Rioghan Meehan and Ruairi McConville for goal chances.
On each occasion, however, Cian Kennedy in the Rice College goal pulled off a fantastic save to keep his net intact. Both sides were add further points before the break at which Rice College led by two, 1-5 to 0-6.
Loftus and Smyth traded scores in the first minute of the second period but on 37 minutes Ronan’s passed up a guilt edged chance to take the lead.
Midfielder Jack Lenehan found himself bearing through on goal in a three on two situation but his powerful shot zipped wide of the upright and Westport could breathe a sigh of relief.
That relief would only last a minute, however, as the games most important score arrived on 38 minutes when the excellent Leo Monteiro broke through the Rice rearguard, his pass saw Smyth’s shot blocked but Tiernan Kelly was the quickest to react and despite falling to the ground the midfielder managed to squeeze the ball under Kennedy and over the goal line.
Tough to take: Rice College's Fintan McManamon after the full time whsitle. Photo: Sportsfile.
With scores proving hard to come by for both sides that one point lead was both strong and precarious at the same time.
The Westport school did edge themselves back into the lead through points from Loftus and the brilliant Mark Moran in the 48 th minute but that would prove to be the end of their scoring for the day.
Adam Loughran and Smyth’s excellent effort saw St. Ronan’s over the line, albeit they were made worry towards the end as Lambert swung two shots at goal either side of the uprights.
Rice College: Cian Kennedy; Luke Dawson, Rory Brickenden, Ray Walsh; Jack Carney, Eoghan McLaughlin, Michael Brady; Fintan McManamon, Patrick Chambers; Keith Joyce (1-1 ), Mark Moran (0-2 ), Luke Tunney; Stephen Loftus (0-4f ), Patrick Lambert (0-2,1f ), Cillian Heaney Subs: Conor Calvey, John McGlynn
St. Ronan’s: Luke Mulholland; Eoin McCluskey, Aidan Mulholland, Jack Haddock; Aaron McCreanor, Jamie Lamont, Jamie Haughey; Jack Lenehan, Tiernan Kelly (1-0 ); Oisin Smyth (0-4 ), Adam Loughran (0-2 ), Rioghan Meehan (0-1 ); Ruairi McConville, Leo Monteiro, Eoin McConville (0-3, 2 ‘45, 1f ). Subs: Marc McAfee, Josh Megoran
Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare )