Leech guides St Mary's to maiden Hogan Cup success
St Mary's 1-16 St Michael's 0-6
Saturday's Hogan Cup final offered a unique pairing, with both St Mary's and St Michael's chasing a first title not just for their schools, but also their counties, and it was the Edenderry boys that prevailed to become the 26th school to claim the famous trophy.
Powered by the soaring fielding of Kildare U-21 Daniel Flynn, Ger Leech's gleeful conversion of eight scoring opportunities from frees and Cian McMonagle's 18th-minute goal after a beautifully constructed move, St Mary's laid to rest the memory of their last-ditch loss in the decider three years ago.
That was clearly a huge motivation, but it wasn't the only one, as victorious manager Emmet McDonnell revealed.
"We were lucky enough to get the 'Fermanagh Herald' this week and we saw that Enniskillen were planning to do what Crossmaglen did to Garrycastle (in the All-Ireland club final) in the first 10 or 15 minutes and I suppose that's the thing we focused on before the game, to not let that happen," he explained.
"Thankfully we got out of the blocks early and we led for most (all) of the game."
St Michael's had progressed to the final on the back of a brilliant defensive effort but the Enniskillen outfit could not cope with the variety of scoring options available to St Mary's.
They couldn't handle the workrate of the St Mary's attackers without the ball either, and time and again coughed up possession in their own half under huge pressure.
It didn't help that they spurned a glorious goal-scoring opportunity after just 19 seconds, when Che Cullen dragged his shot wide from close range.
Dom Corrigan's charges did create a couple of other half-chances thereafter but it was mostly one-way traffic as Edenderry's pace, movement and delivery created so much space.
McMonagle, Mark Nolan, Sean Doyle and Leech all contributed to the 0-6 to 0-0 lead before an intricate move involving Leech and Ruairi McNamee set up McMonagle to plant a low shot to the St Michael's net.
Barry McAleer got St Michael's first point in the 20th minute and followed up again quickly as they raised their supporters' hopes with three on the trot.
But the winners came back with four of their own, three from Leech to lead by 1-10 to 0-3 at half-time. It was plain sailing from there to the end, with Leech adding four more points and Daniel Grehan kicking a wonder score.
Lee Brennan and Tommy McCaffrey doubled St Michael's tally between them but this was a day the Enniskillen outfit would not remember fondly.
Scorers -- St Mary's: G Leech 0-8f, C McMonagle 1-1, M Nolan, S Doyle, D Grehan 0-2 each, S Haslim 0-1. St Michael's: B McAleer, T McCaffrey(1f) 0-2 each, L Brennan, E Courtney (f) 0-1 each.
St Mary's -- C Hurley; S Moriarty, L Flynn, M Kearney; P Foy, C McNamee, J Dowdall; D Grehan, D Flynn; C McMonagle, M Nolan, G Leech; R McNamee, R Caffrey, S Doyle. Subs: J McKeown for Caffrey (47), A O'Connell for McMonagle (58), P O'Neill for Doyle (58), S Haslim for R McNamee (60),K McNally for Dowdall (60).
St Michael's -- P Sweeney; E Hamill, N Shannon, K McDonnell; L Cullen, R Brennan, N Beggan; C Cullen, R Hyde; C Murphy, B McAleer, N Maguire; D Teague, L Martin, E Courtney. Subs: L Brennan for C Cullen temp (8-14); Brennan for Murphy (h-t); T McCaffrey for Teague (h-t); L Jones for C Cullen inj (h-t); J Allen for McAleer (46); D Gallagher for Jones (51).
Ref -- Marty Duffy (Sligo).