Cormac ó Braonáin emerged as the hero for Coláiste Eoin in Kinnegad on Friday, when his late penalty save helped to secure the gaelscoil’s triumph in the Leinster Post-Primary Schools Juvenile Football ‘A’ decider against Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar.
First-half goals from Tom ó hEachthigheirn and Pádraig Puirséil had helped Eoin to develop a three-point cushion during the closing stages, but the sides looked set to finish on level terms when Mhuire attacker Seán Mahon stepped forward to take a final-minute spot-kick.
However, ó Braonáin was equal to his effort, and with captain Colm Mac Giolla Phádraig producing an outstanding defensive display, the southside school held out for a hard-earned success.
This was Eoin’s first game in more than two months and was also their opening fixture in the provincial series. They earned a place in Leinster courtesy of their magnificent 5-16 to 2-2 win over St Fintan’s HS, Sutton in the Dublin final.
Puirséil and Seamas ó Fiachna finished that encounter with an impressive tally of 5-8 between them, but it was the aforementioned ó hEachthigheirn who kick-started their challenge early on.
In difficult conditions, ó hEachthigheirn raced through on goal before unleashing an unstoppable shot beyond the reach of Mhuire netminder Josh Duncan.
This was an ideal start for the Booterstown outfit, but with St Loman’s star Conan O’Hara in fine form, their Lake County opponents remained in contention.
O’Hara contributed a personal haul of 0-4 in the opening period, but after escaping the close attention of his marker, Puirséil raised a second green flag to offer Eoin a 2-3 to 0-5 interval platform.
This lead was quickly increased to five points on the resumption, but a rampant Mhuire soon reduced their deficit to the minimum courtesy of four unanswered scores.
O’Hara continued to exert his influence, and ó hEachthigheirn and his midfield partner, Seán ó Cinseallaigh, needed to be at their best to prevent Mhuire from turning the tide in their favour.
Mac Giolla Phádraig’s role in the team was also crucial, and with Mhuire opting to use a third midfielder, he was deployed as a spare man in the Eoin defence.
Tomás ó Neill was also a lively presence in attack, and with the final whistle quickly approaching, Eoin had seemingly weathered the Mhuire storm.
Mahon was presented with a last-gasp opportunity to spoil the Coláiste Eoin party, but ó Braonáin ensured that their travelling supporters had reason to celebrate at the end of a gripping contest.