Flaherty and Rafferty help Benildus make history
St Benildus Col 2-7 Marist Athlone 1-6
History was made in Tullamore as St Benildus College claimed their maiden provincial title at this level.
Played in testing conditions, the Stillorgan school were the superior team on the day as Marist College failed to recover sufficiently from a seven-point deficit at half-time.
While it was history for the Dubs, it was final anguish yet again for the Athlone school, who are still in search of their first Senior 'A' Leinster crown having lost previous finals in 1983, 1999 and 2014.
First-half goals from Paddy Flaherty and Joe Rafferty laid the foundations as a second-half fightback from Marist school wasn't enough to stop the title returning to the capital.
Neither side would have been overly fancied to be lifting the cup at the outset of the campaign but both were there on merit having slayed top-class opposition on route to Saturday's final.
Ten minutes into the game, the sides were deadlocked at a point apiece but two minutes later, Marist couldn't prevent a wonderful team goal from St Benildus as a slick move ended with Dublin minor midfielder Flaherty picking out the bottom corner of the Marist net with a well-placed shot.
Brian Derwin narrowed the gap but St Benildus were on the goal trail and they had their second after a high ball from Callum Pearson was touched past Conor Devaney by Rafferty.
With Tom Fox sending over a couple of superb long-range scores, the Dublin men were looking comfortable.
Tom Keane and Derwin both kicked frees to leave St Benildus 2-4 to 0-3 ahead at the break, and Keane was on target again to open the second-half scoring.
Marist refused to wilt, however, and aided by the introduction of Luke Carty in the 33rd minute, they began to make inroads into the St Benildus lead.
With the contest now coming to life, Marist were awarded a dubious penalty and Ryan Gaffey made no mistake in dispatching it to give them a fighting chance coming into the final stretch.
Corey Reid and Luke Carty both kicked rousing scores to cut the gap to just three points with 15 minutes remaining, but that was as close as they got as the pre-game favourites controlled the remainder of the game.
St Benildus expertly and efficiently held possession for the majority of the closing stages, working down the clock and keeping their counterparts on the back foot.
Furthermore, they added an insurance point from Rafferty to make it a four-point game.
The Stillorgan side now advance to meet the Munster champions in the All-Ireland semi-final.
SCORERS - St Benildus College: J Rafferty 1-2, P Flaherty 1-0, T Fox, T Keane (2fs) 0-2 each, C Pearson 0-1. Marist College: R Gaffey 1-0 (pen), B Derwin 0-3 (2fs), C McCormack (f), C Reid, L Carty 0-1 each.
ST BENILDUS COLLEGE - A O'Callaghan; A Walsh, L Doran, P O'Reilly; A Bradshaw, D Keogh, S O'Reilly; C Pearson, P Flaherty; D O'Brien, J Rafferty, A Fox; E Foley, T Fox, T Keane. Sub: A Kelly for S O'Reilly (36, BC).
MARIST COLLEGE - C Devaney; D Carroll, E Nally, S Furey; E Mulvihill, J Curley, F Dowd; D Reid, C Reid; R Gaffey, C McCormack, C Mannion; S Dowd, B Derwin, K Rigney. Subs: L Carty for S Dowd (33), M Egan for Mulvihill (44), E Egan for McCormack (54), B Leahy for Nally (58, BC).
REF - C Dwyer (Offaly)