IT WAS an exceptionally busy week in post-primary GAA circles with reigning Leinster and All-Ireland champions St Mary's, Edenderry, losing their crowns at Mullingar while St Gerald's, Castlebar defeated St Jarlath's in the Connacht final at Ballinrobe.
Both of those teams now push on and prepare for the Masita All-Ireland series but the weekend also proved hectic for multi-tasking Tipperary native Darragh Duggan who is involved in the backroom of two Waterford school teams – St Augustines who have reached the ‘C’ section football final and Dungarvan Colleges who are two games away from winning an All-Ireland title in the ‘A’ section.
Last Saturday, Duggan, who is preparing the St Augustine’s side along with Kilrossanty man Ger Walsh, was on the line as his young players beat Ardee CS 1-12 – 1-8 to qualify for the Masita Schools ‘C’ football final.
“It’s crazy busy at the moment,” Duggan says. “We have six players who are regulars on both football and hurling teams and another two who are pushing hard for starting places on the hurling side, you can imagine the schedule we have at the minute.
we have to be very careful with the students,” Holycross man Duggan warns. “And
we are. We’ve been on the go since the start of the year with both outfits and
with the ‘Colleges side we had 18 games played before the Harty Cup final. Now
it’s just a matter of keeping those lads fresh ‘til we see who we meet in the
All-Ireland hurling semi-final and play the football final.”
“We could well be in action with both teams until the end of March which would leave the lads with only two months before their exams so we’re extremely aware of that,” the coach continues.
“But they are well-balanced young fellas and extremely disciplined too. Last Saturday, they had a tough task but we looked to Seamus Keating at midfield. He won a few kick-outs and from there the momentum turned in our favour. Ardee CS were tough but we had our homework done on them – particularly their full-forward line. We went into the break three points up despite playing against a breeze so that set us up.”
Duggan and Walsh’s team will now meet Schoil Mhuire, Strokestown in the ‘C’ final after the Roscommon side enjoyed an easy win over St Joseph’s, Donaghmore.
“They’ll be a tough team but anything I have asked of my lads they have delivered,” Duggan says.
The dual coach accepts there is much criticism of Dungarvan Colleges’ existence in the schools championship but says it’s nothing to do with his team.
“They were in nappies when that combined colleges system was brought in around 2002,” he says. “It’s nothing to do with them.
“Anyway, Dungarvan schools had won nothing for years so are they to be punished for a bit of success. There were no complaints when we were involved in tight games with Thurles CBS and a few other teams like that. The flak has only ramped up since we played a one-sided Harty Cup final against Templemore CBS, but it’s our last year as a combined team so we’ll be all out to win the competition.”
Elsewhere, St Mary’s CBGS defeated St Raphael’s, Loughrea in the Masita senior ‘B’ schools hurling semi-final. Eddie McToal’s side had prepared well for the game with a good run out against the Westmeath minors the previous week and they showed no fear against a Loughrea side that up to recently was winning Connacht and national ‘A’ titles.
Top performers were full back and Antrim Senior panel member Tomas Ó Ciarain and forwards Conor Kerr, James Connolly. Indeed, the Mary's rearguard was particularly impressive in the closing stages as, after a slow start, St.Raphaels fought back through the free taking of Gearoid Loughnane to leave only seven points in it with 10 minutes still on the clock.
Ultimately, though, after a 0-6 to 0-0 in the opening 20 minutes and an assured display from Conor Kerr from play and placed balls, the Belfast school was well in control.
“It was a great result against a very tough team,” said team mentor Paddy Linden. “But things have been going well for us in recent years and we have a nice bit of experience built up. The lads are on a high and we’ll need to keep that going if we’re to beat Dungarvan CBS in the final. If it was Antrim against Waterford in the morning we would be clear underdogs so we’ll be all out to keep bucking the trend.”
As expected, Dungarvan CBS were put to the pin of their collar by Laois side Heywood CS last Saturday. They eventually came through on a 3-18 – 2-15 scoreline after extra time had been played.
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
Kerry school Causeway Comprehensive’s defeat of Kilkenny’s Schoil Mhuire, Johnstown, in the Masita Junior VS Hurling Championship.
NUMBER OF THE WEEK
38 – The amount of scores between Heywood CS and Dungarvan CBS in the Masita senior ‘B’ final.
STAT OF THE WEEK
There are 14 schools represented in this year’s combined Ulster Colleges team which is led by Mickey McCullogh, Sean McGourty and Ronan McWilliams
RESULTS (Played on 09.03.13)