COL EOIN v ST PATRICK'S, NAVAN
Parnell Park, Sunday (2.0)
Coláiste Eoin face St Patrick's of Navan on Sunday with both sides in excellent form after impressive semi-final victories over Ardscoil na Tríonóide of Athy and St Mary's of Edenderry respectively.
Certainly, St Pat's replay demolition of then holders St Mary's last weekend was the most eye-catching display of the year, showing a huge improvement from the original drawn game where they needed a late Darragh Maguire goal to earn what many considered a lucky stay of execution.
The Navan school seem to be timing their run to perfection with a narrow three-point win over Good Counsel in the opening round, followed up by a flattering eight-point conquest of Moate CS prior to finally accounting for St Mary's by 2-13 to 0-10 with late goals by Fiachra Ross and Shane Gillespie sealing their final berth.
Manager Colm O'Rourke has developed a strong panel this year which includes six Meath minor panellists, with Maguire and Liam Bourke in eye-catching form in defence whilst Conor Sheridan in midfield has strung together a series of impressive displays.
Up front, most of the plaudits have gone to full-forward Gillespie but St Pat's have shared the scoring burden with Alan Forde, Ross, Shane Barry and Ciaran Fitzsimons all making notable contributions in what is an extremely hard-working forward sextet.
O'Rourke, who will have one enforced absentee with Brian Dillon hors de combat, is relishing Sunday's encounter and expects a free-flowing game of football. "We've had a lot of good, entertaining games against Coláiste Eoin down the years as both teams are focussed on playing good, open football," said the Meath legend.
"We have the height of respect for them and are just looking forward to getting out there on Sunday and playing to our full potential.
"Naturally, we'll hope to come out on top at the final whistle," he added.
Coláiste Eoin's path to the final has run a slightly smoother course as they recorded eight- and 11-point victories over Coláiste Íosagáin and Dundalk Schools respectively before overcoming Ardscoil na Tríonóide in a fractious semi-final by 1-8 to 1-6.
Their settled side is backboned by a large contingent of Cuala and Kilmacud Crokes members, with both clubs providing six players each from the recognised starting 15 and this consistency of selection and familiarity has helped develop a winning mentality within the panel.
In addition, most of the panel were involved in their school's impressive run to the Leinster Colleges SH 'A' semi-final where they were narrowly beaten by Kilkenny CBS after a titanic struggle and this has also helped foster a steely resolve.
The Gaelscoil's strength lies in defence starting with goalkeeper Daniel Ó Caoimh who made two crucial saves in their semi-final win and corner-back Dara Ó hAodha has been a reassuring presence in the full-back line in addition to being the team's recognised penalty taker.
The half-back line of Graham Ó Fógartaigh, Aran Ó Murchú and Jack Mac Cionnaith have been immense all year with Wicklow minor Ó Murchú in particular offering an effective balance of cover to his full-back line as well as showing a more creative facet to his game with regular forays into the opposition's half.
The midfield of Jude Mac Suibhne and Donal Sutcliffe have eclipsed their direct opponents in all three games to date and although the attack has performed sporadically at times, the calibre of forwards such as captain Seán Mac Craith, Colm Mac Gearailt, Brian Ó Murchú and Mark Schutte cannot be questioned.
Ultimately, how Coláiste Eoin respond to last week's hurling setback could prove instrumental in deciding these evenly matched sides and manager Pádraig Mac Donnacha is confident his players aren't lacking in motivation for Sunday.
He said: "Training's been going well the past week and the determination to win the football as a consolation for last week's defeat has been noticeable.
"We're confident of putting on a good display and hopefully that will be enough to get us over the line."