AS the saying goes ' goals win games' and that was certainly the case in Croke Park last Tuesday afternoon in the Division 1 Football Final of the Cumann na mBunscol Leagues.
Seasoned veterans St. Brigid's of Castleknock took on Rush National School who were playing in their first ever top flight decider and as anticipated it proved to be an enthralling contest. Both sides played their part as the large crowd witnessed a free-flowing, actionpacked encounter that was played in an excellent spirit throughout. Following an epic battle it was Rush N.S. who emerged victorious, but St. Brigid's deserve great credit for a spirited comeback and could easily have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the final seconds.
However the Rush players displayed a never say die attitude that has served them well all season and held their nerve to deservedly claim their first ever Division 1 title. The victors got off to a flying start and a fine point from midfielder Ciarán Archer in the third minute settled their nerves. This score was immediately followed by a Ray O'Sullivan goal and the underdogs led by 1-1 to no score. In the fourth minute the aforementioned O'Sullivan struck again with a fantastic finish and at this stage it looked like Rush N.S. were going to record a comfortable victory.
However, St. Brigid's began to find their feet and with the hugely impressive John Meagher driving them on from centre back the Castleknock school came more and more into the game. In the seventh minute they opened their account with the trusty boot of full forward Cian Rogers converting a free and this score definitely settled their nerves. In the 12th minute Matt Grogan finished a high ball to the Rush net and suddenly it was game on. St. Brigid's quickly added another point and the Rush players knew that they had to lift their performance levels.
It was end to end at this stage with each side giving their all. Both custodians were kept busy and Aaron Mehigan pulled off a series of breath-taking saves to keep St. Brigid's at bay. In the 16th minute a killer pass from Rush full forward Ray O'Sullivan was finished to the net by the vigilant Alex Neary and it seemed that Rush N.S. had weathered the Castleknock storm to lead by 31 to 1-2 with 17 minutes played. Up to this point the towering Ciarán Archer had been lording the midfield exchanges but the move of John Meagher to centerfield helped curb the influence of the Rush number 8 and it was St. Brigid's who were finishing the half the stronger with two fine points from near impossible angles. Rush managed a rare attack in the 21st minute and despite some heroic defending from full back Tom Hegarty the ball fell kindly for Alex Neary and he made no mistake.
This score meant that Rush went in at the break 4-1 to 1-4 up but with all still to play for. The Castleknock players received a stern talking to at the interval and emerged with all guns blazing as they quickly cut the deficit in half with three unanswered points. A point from Ciarán Archer in the fifth minute and a superb individual effort from Stephen Bogan in the 9th steadied the Rush ship temporarily. Both sides exchanged points before St. Brigid's took control and hit two unanswered goals. The Castleknock team now led for the first time and having overturned a six point deficit it seemed that the tide had turned in their favour. Down by the bare minimum it was make or break time for the Rush team. However these Rush players are made of sterner stuff and led by Ciaran Archer and centre forward Donagh McNamara they tore into the Castleknock defence and with players tiring gaps began to appear.
Sharp shooter Ray O'Sullivan brought his tally to 3-1 for the afternoon and three further points from Ciarán Archer established a comfortable 5-point lead. With St. Brigid's still up for the challenge it took a mammoth defensive performance from the likes of Robert Halpin and Aidan Hegarty to keep them at arms length and the Castleknock side didn't score again until the final minute recording a superb goal. It was all hands on deck at this stage for Rush but following one minute of injury time they ran out worthy winners with the final score line reading 5 -7 to 4 -8 in their favour. This was an historic victory for the Rush school, lifting the Corn Kitterick for the first time and completed a memorable year having already captured the Fingal Junior Division 1 title in June and the school's junior team also claimed the Division 1 North title recently in the Cumann na mBunscol Leagues.
A fantastic achievement!
RUSH NS: Aaron Mehigan, Robert Halpin, Andy Doran, Michael Leonard, Kevin Kelly, Neil Rock, Owen Harford, Ciarán Archer 0-5, Liam Doran, Jason Collins, Donagh McNamara, Aidan Hegarty, Stephen Bogan 0-1, Ray O'Sullivan 3-1, Alex Neary 2-0. Subs: Steven Clarke, Jack Murtagh Wilde, Daragh Conroy, Lawrence McGuinness, Glen Kelly and Michael Jones.