Classy Clarke leads Colman's to glory
St Colman's 1-18
St Brendan's 3-5
ALL-IRELAND COLLEGES SFC FINAL
The boys of St Brendan's may have had a mentor who knew all about Croke Park, but it was St Colman's who bossed headquarters as if they had been playing there all their lives.
The Newry side were much too strong for the Killarney lads, despite the input of reigning Footballer of the Year Paul Galvin, with 19 scores to eight a clearer indication of their superiority than the seven-point margin, particularly with two of the Brendan's goals (and the Colman's one) coming in the final 10 minutes.
Chris Clarke, Conor Gough, Niall McParland and Jerome Johnston were four players who looked like they had been born to perform on the big stage but, as Colman's boss Cathal Murray acknowledged, all Down teams start to strut when they reach Croke Park.
"What a place to win an All-Ireland, in Croke Park," he enthused. "The boys were immense, they were just superb. They have been that way all year so it was no surprise.
"It's been pure football with us all year. They reckon there's a wee bit of arrogance with Down men in Croke Park. You need that bit of swagger and we can mix it with anybody."
Murray reckoned it wasn't his charges' best performance of the year, which is just as well for Brendan's, who despite playing with the wind in the first period, could barely get out of their half.
They didn't help their cause by constantly losing possession and had Colman's been less profligate in that opening period -- they had four wides in the opening seven minutes -- they would have been out of sight at the break.
As it was they led by 0-9 to 1-1 at the interval, with Clarke in unstoppable form. The Down U-21 star had five of his side's points in that period, three of which came from play and the redeployment of St Brendan's full-forward Seán Keane to mark him in place of the substituted Colm Tobin in the 15th minute did nothing to quell his influence.
Tobin's replacement David O'Sullivan did contribute two penalty goals, though, the first nervelessly slid to Matthew McNiece's left in the 26th minute after Jeff O'Donoghue had been hauled down by Ruairi Lively, when running onto the substitute's sublime pass.
O'Donoghue had a point within 23 seconds of the restart for Brendan's, fisting over from a tight angle.
But the Newry boys, with Clarke and Gough pulling the strings, maintained complete dominance in all sectors of the field, three wonderful points from Johnston helping to establish a 10-point advantage.
O'Sullivan converted his second penalty in equally impressive fashion to his first after a Colman's defender handled the ball in the small square 10 minutes from time.
However, any hopes of a famous comeback were wrecked at the other end when Shane McCartan toe-poked to the net after Ryan McGarry's penalty had been saved by David Gleeson, only for the unfortunate keeper to cough up possession.
That score ensured that Tom Moriarty's brilliant 59th-minute goal was just a consolation and that the honours would lay with St Colman's.
"Fair play to Brendan's, they kept in there," praised Murray. "They worked, they made it difficult for us to get scores and only an injection of a bit of pace, particularly from Shane McCartan, made the difference and closed the game out.
"We've been working on the basic skills of football which is what it's all about as well as the fitness and it paid off well. Any ball coming into the forwards they were fit to win it: they had the pace, the strength, the speed to take the man on and go past."
And that was more than enough.
Scorers -- St Colman's: C Clarke 0-5 (0-2fs), J Johnston 0-4, C Mooney 0-3 (0-1f), S McCartan 1-0, N McParland, C Stevenson 0-2 each, R Johnson, R McGarry (0-1 '45) 0-1 each. St Brendan's: D O'Sullivan 2-0 (2-0 pens), J O'Donoghue 0-3, T Moriarty 1-0, G O'Leary 0-2.
St Colman's -- M McNeice; S McGreevy, N Donnelly, R Lively; R Johnson, P Hillen, P Lively; N McParland, C Gough; D O'Hare, C Clarke, C Mooney; C Stevenson, J Johnston, T McGreevy. Subs: R McGarry for T McGreevy (44), S McCartan for C Stevenson (49), E Magee for O'Hare (55).
St Brendan's -- D Gleeson; E O'Sullivan, S McCarthy, C Davis; D O'Leary, C Tobin, C Fitzgerald; P Lucey, C O'Leary; T Moriarty, B Falvey, G O'Leary; B O'Shea, S Keane, J O'Donoghue. Subs: D O'Sullivan for Tobin (15), S Coppinger for O'Shea (h-t).
Ref -- S Doyle (Wexford)