Supersub Paddy O'Connor sent Wicklow Schools through to the quarter-finals with two wondrous goals in a windswept Bray.
Athlone CC – four points behind, but playing with a near gale-force wind – were hopeful of turning the tide when O'Connor was introduced midway through the second half.
O'Connor was scarcely on the pitch five minutes when he took a pass from star midfielder Niall Hughes and scythed in along the right touchline before blasting into the far corner of the Athlone net.
Kenny Dolan kept Athlone hopes alive with a point that reduced the deficit to 2-3 to 2-9, but within two minutes their dreams were shattered when O'Connor rifled home his second, Wicklow Schools' third goal, to nail down victory.
Led by centre-back Ruairi Marron, Wicklow Schools defended heroically against the wind in the second half, holding Athlone to a meagre three points for the 30 minutes.
Yet Wicklow Schools would not have been overly confident that their half-time lead of 1-8 to 2-0 was sufficient to contain their wind-assisted opponents on the change over.
Indeed, they were rocked early on by two Athlone goals by midfielder Cillian Bannon and centre-forward Cian McManus and it took six points from Hughes and a goal by centre-forward Stephen Cruise to give them a less than impregnable five-point lead at the break. However, they held on to claim the victory and they will be delighted to reach the last eight at the first attempt.
Scorers – Wicklow Schools: P O'Connor 2-0, S Cruise 1-0, N Hughes 0-6 (5fs) M O'Connor 0-3 (2fs). Athlone CC: C Bannon 1-0, C McManus 1-1, K Dolan, J Quinn 0-1 each.
Wicklow schools – I Murphy; D Gethings, E Murtagh, B Miley; E Marah, R Marron, D Walsh; E Baker, N Hughes; C Byrne, S Cruise, G Allen; M O'Connor, M Lennon, M Cullen. Subs: B Behan for E Marah (31), P O'Connor for E Baker (50), S O'Brien for S Cruise (50), S Lohan for M O'Connor (57).
Athlone CC – D Colgan; S McManus, M Flannery, E Fox; C Hayden, M Darling, K O'Beirne; P Sleator, C Bannon; C McGuinness, C McManus, K Dolan; H Allen, A Molloy, J Quinn. Subs: K. Dockery for S McManus, T Hurley for H Allen (44, BC), S McManus for K O'Beirne (58, BC), C Walsh for M Flannery (59, BC).
REF – B Hickey (Kildare).