Summerhill go so close to glory

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Connacht Schools Senior Cup Final

Summerhill College (Sligo) 18, Garbally College (Ballinasloe) 19

THERE was no fairytale ending for Summerhill College as they were narrowly edged out – by a single point – after an epic Connacht Schools Senior Cup final at The Sportsground, Galway, by Garbally College, who picked up their 45th provincial title.

The Sligo town side, competing in their first ever final at this level, started and finished very brightly and Cillian Gallagher’s try six minutes from time gave Adrian Barrett’s side the chance of victory. But Jack Keegan’s was unlucky to see his well-struck conversion from the left drift inches wide as Summerhill fell just short.

Even at that juncture all was not lost for Summerhill, and a scything break from Alexander Selby from deep in his own ’22’ almost saw them cross for a third try at the death. However, Garbally winger Noel Cotton cut the full-back down a yard from the line to deny Summerhill a deserved first title.

After losing consecutive finals it was Simon Keller that kicked Garbally College to the title as well as a first-half try from Michael O’Neill. Keller, the only survivor from the 2013 defeat to Marist College, kicked superbly and didn’t deserve to be on the losing side.

But Summerhill was laced with top performers as well. Keegan ran the show excellently in the backs’ division, but he was ably supported by the outstanding, hard-running Darragh Cummins and number eight Gallagher, who had a ding-dong battle with his opposite number Dylan Connolly.

It had started so well for Summerhill, too, when second row Ciaran Cassidy crashed over in the second minute following a well constructed maul, which Keegan converted well for a 7-0 lead.

Keller – who kicked five from five off the tee – got Garbally off the mark with a seventh minute penalty when Keegan was penalised for not rolling away from the tackle.

The Ballinasloe school slowly began to get a foothold in the game and when O’Neill powered over from close-range in the 31st minute, Keller converted to give them the lead.

A minute from the interval Keegan also showed his skill from the tee when the Garbally scrum was penalised to level the game, but with the last kick of half Keller slotted a sublime penalty from the left touchline to give his side a 13-10 lead.

Keller landed his third penalty three minutes after the restart when Garbally were penalised at the breakdown to open out a six-point lead, 16-10, but they were reduced to 14 men soon after when Andrew Foulger was penalised.

Keegan chipped away at that lead when Conor Kenny infringed and their quest was aided when Daniel Dent was also sin-binned seconds after Garbally had been returned to their full complement.

Ten minutes from time Keller struck a significant blow when he landed a long-range kick when Selby was harshly penalised for holding on in the tackle.

Gallagher’s try in the 64th minute gave Summerhill a chance at victory, but Keegan’s conversion drifted narrowly wide, and O’Neill’s heroics late saved Garbally.

Best for Summerhill: Cillian Gallagher.  Despite a super performance from Darragh Cummins, Summerhill’s best performer was number eight Cillian Gallagher. His control at the base of the scrum was faultless and he looked unstoppable when he picked and charged over for his late try. Dynamic in the loose and he tackled his heart out, there is a big future for him in the game.

Garbally College: I Fletcher; C Payne, P Flannery, S Keller (4 pens, con), N Cotton; D reilly, F Hopkins; N Higgins, R Khan, C Kenny; D Dent, A Foulger; C Harewood, M O’Neill (try), D Connolly.

Replacements: R Hines for Foulger (50); O Lyons for Connolly (54)

Summerhill College: A Selby; S Flanagan, R Hickey, D Cummins, A Cummins; J Keegan (2 pens, con), N Murray; H Mousa, D Hough, M Keegan; C Cassidy (try), L Morrison,; S O’Hehir, L McElhinney, C Gallagher (try)

Replacements: Y Shalabi for Hough (35)

Referee: Jason Cairns (CBIRFU)

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