KILDARE kingpins Salesian College are Leinster Senior Cup champions again -- for the second time in three years in fact -- after strikes in either half saw off the challenge of St Kieran's in the provincial final in Leah Victoria Park, Tullamore, yesterday afternoon.
Goals, courtesy of an own goal from goalkeeper Craig Cummins and Michael Brown, were the difference in the end but in truth on another day both sides could have added to their tallies.
Overall, though, the Celbridge-based outfit were the physically stronger of the two, and playing some neat football they dominated for long spells of the game.
Team captain, Paddy Markey, and Irish U18 international, Tomas Boyle were near-insurmountable in the centre of defence, while Michael O'Grady and Michael Brown held the upperhand in the middle of the park. On the flanks, Colm Smyth and Kevin Molloy offered good width, with the former well supported by Gavin Kane, while up front the strength of the bustling Fergal Conway proved yet again the perfect foil for the pace of Bryan Bonjo.
St Kieran's, on the other hand, far too often lacked sufficient quality in the final third and for all their endeavour that's ultimately where this game was won and lost.
The first half began at a hundred miles per hour, but while it was fast and frantic, it was equally a scrappy affair where clear-cut chances were at a premium.
In saying that, it took only six minutes before the deadlock was broken but even then a large slice of fortune was needed. The aforementioned Cummins looked to have done the hard part when he denied Kevin Molloy and O'Grady with fine saves in quick succession. But when the grounded net-minder tried to turn and grab the loose ball all he could do was deflect it into his own net.
Thereafter, however, neither side managed to create much, with Bonjo hooking wide at the near post after 21 minutes, while at the other end Shane McNamara dealt comfortably with a Walsh snap-shot from the edge of the area.
Looking the more at ease with possession, Celbridge continued to probe without much reward, although Cummins was again required to be at full stretch when he pushed over a flying header from O'Grady following a Smyth cross.
Both sides lost defenders to injury just past the half hour mark, but neither substitute could help raise the standard before half-time, into which Salesian College carried a narrow lead. That was after Conor Gorey and Walsh both failed to make the most of the best chances that St Kieran's created before the interval.
In stark contrast to the first half, the second was a far more open affair and even though Salesian College again controlled most of it, St Kieran's raised their game quite noticeably.
With Gorey and Ciaran Snype now operating on opposite flanks to which they started the game, and both Walsh and his strike partner Mikey Drennan regularly dropping deep to link play, St Kieran's looked a more balanced outfit. And it was no surprise that they enjoyed their best period of the game during the opening 15 minutes of the half.
In saying that, though, they continued to rue their lack of class in front of goal, with Drennan drilling narrowly wide from 20 yards after 56 minutes, before Snype failed to add the finishing touches from close range with the goal at his mercy after Drennan centred a low ball across the face of goal that should have resulted in the equaliser. To make matters worse, Walsh then had a goal ruled out for off-side as Salesian College set about reasserting themselves on proceedings.
Normality appeared restored when Cummins was required to touch a Molloy header on to the crossbar and over after 61 minutes, but there was little he could do moments later when he was beaten by Brown who glided a delightful effort low and wide past his outstretched hand for the game's clincher.
Half chances continued to present themselves to both sides as the clock wore down but although none were converted, a disappointing day for St Kieran's went from bad to worse when referee Damien Carey waved away their strong penalty claims five minutes from time.
Salesian College: S McNamara; G Kane, C Philips, P Markey, T Boyle, M O'Grady, C Smyth, M Brown, F Conway, B Bonjo, K Molloy. Sub: M Ilunga for Philips (inj 31); O ó Foghtú for Conway (85).
St. Kieran's College: C Cummins; S Chappell, R Hayes, S Johnson, A Cantwell, L Hickey, C Snipe, M Drennan, D Walsh, E Delahunty, C Gorey. Subs: J Quan for Cantwell (inj, 28); J Power for Snype (64).
Referee: D Carey.