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8M 2-6 8T 4-2

Despite having already defeated 8M in the group stages of the league, 8T went into this year’s final as very much the underdogs. 8M Form Teacher and mentor Mr McBarron had openly stated, “Lightning doesn’t strike twice. My lads will take them by minimum five points.” Mr Rasdale (their manager!!) described 8T as, “one dimensional and going to get found out.” However, they did the business again in a really competitive final down on the bottom pitch yesterday evening.

This was a cracking game, extremely competitive, despite very heavy conditions underfoot. After a pre-match dispute about who would have to wear the Derrygonnelly Harps’ jerseys, both teams really got stuck into each other, and if the ball wasn’t moved quickly, it was taken off the player in possession quick-fast. It took a few fellas a while to realise that, but they did after a few turnovers and nil sympathy from the ref.

8M had the better of the first half, and went in 2-6 to 2-1 ahead. Cahir Conlon had flicked home an early goal, although 8T replied through a good goal and a point from a free, both by Conor Northern. 8M then went on a real scoring spree, with Michael Burns grabbing two points, and Calvin Browne proving a problem for 8T with a point and a lot of possession. Liam Corry was driving 8M forward all the time, and AJ Bogue claimed an assist for one of Burns’ points. Calum Wheeler had an important save to keep out what looked a great goal chance for Michael Burns, but the Belcoo man was not to be denied, cutting in from the right for a three pointer, added to by Rowan Connolly with a point. 8Ts long ball tactics, saw Conor Northern on the end of the play for a goal to stay in touch. Conor O’Hanlon and Rory Smyth were ‘letting it in long to the big man’ as the saying goes, and young Northern was proving a handful. His partner up front, little Conall Owens was proving a great wee outlet as well, scampering from side to side. But still, James Corry and Odhran Dolan were digging the ball out for 8M and the elusive Aidan Duffy clipped one over, added to by Jake Cadden. Half time 2-6 to 2-1.

Well the second half was a real scrap, as the conditions became a bit muddier, and the players kept cancelling each other out. There were a number of very good duels between the big guns: Rory Smyth and Liam Corry, Conor O’Hanlon and James Corry, Oisin Swift and Jake Cadden, very enjoyable to watch. As these battles took place, guys like Seamus Cleary and Tiernan Swift had to take the thing on, and they did that very well. Smyth found himself free inside and drove home to bring the margin down to two, and minutes later 8T were ahead. Caolan Rooney released Luke St Ledger, goal!! 8M fought with everything they had, Liam Corry hit the post, they had a few ropey wides, and Michael Rafferty and Padraig Rainey had some great last ditch clearances. How did they not score?? Well they didn’t, that’s it. Mention also to Stephen O’Brien for his big clearances for 8T to lift the siege. Eventually, Fiontan Reilly was fouled inside, and Conor Northern tapped over the free. Excellent ref Michael McPhilips blew his whistle and 8T ran around screaming with delight. A very tight game was over.

As mentioned, the game saw a number of tight battles all over the pitch. This was great to see. The intensity of the game overall was very high, with lads giving it everything to get the block, tackle or turnover, or burst through the challenge. For 8M Michael Burns and Liam Corry were possibly the standout players, but the whole group gave it a great go. They also had a very high turnout for every game, so well done to them. 8T had to grind their way to this win, living on scraps, but eventually squeezing 8M on restarts, and not letting them build. High work-rate specialists Rory Smyth and Conor O’Hanlon collected the trophy on behalf of their team-mates, but the lads all did their bit to keep 8M out. How they did it, even they don’t know!

Mr Rasdale, in his words after the final, was very warm in his praise of both teams for serving up one of the most intensely fought finals in years, nearly going back to the days of the Cullen twins’ 2005 final, described as, “..pure war..” and up there with the current 10O’s daylight robbery in 2015. He reminded the lads that the league is about settling in together and getting to know each other. Eventually, we’ll be playing on St Michael’s teams together. It is also about participation, and all of the classes were very committed in this respect. In his post match analysis, Mr McBarron, clearly still shellshocked, congratulated 8T on their win. Well, we think that’s what he said, because he was talking through gritted teeth. But he raised his voice after a minute, and then added with real menace in his voice, “This isn’t over lads. Sports Day will tell the tale.” To be continued then……

8T: Calum Wheeler, Cillian Sprice, Patrick Sprice, Alex Murphy, Ryan Williams, Padraig Rainey, Tiarnan Swift, Michael Rafferty, Oisin Swift, Conor Northern, Caolan Rooney, Stephen O’Brien, Fiontan Reilly, Conall Owens, Luke St Ledger, Rory Smyth, Conor O’Hanlon. (Other boys who played in group matches: Cahir Swift, Kajetan Zdunik, James Leonard and Oisin Reilly)

8M: AJ Bogue, James Corry, Dara Burns, Rowan Connolly, Michael Fee, Calvin Browne, Seamus Cleary, Keilan Dolan, Dominic Bradley, Jake Cadden, Conor Clifford, Cahir Conlon, Kian Cauldwell, Shay Deazley, Aidan Duffy, Conan Donohoe, Odhran Dolan, Pearse Corrigan, Conor Darcy, Liam Corry, Michael Burns.

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