O'Rourke delight as St Pat's give Meath a boost
Reigning Leinster and All-Ireland champions St Mary's lost both their crowns at Cusack Park as St Patrick's regained the provincial title with a deserved win in an entertaining contest.
The holders had the aid of a strong wind in the first half and led by 0-3 to 0-0 after eight minutes, courtesy of two Cein McMonagle frees and a neat score from play by Mikey Cleere.
St Patrick's, after a slow start, began to look marginally the better team and they led by 0-4 to 0-3 at the end of the first quarter, helped by some fine free-taking by Niall Lyons.
However, McMonagle, St Mary's most consistent performer, scored a well-worked goal in the 18th minute to put his side back in front.
Three minutes later, an improvised flick to the net from Niall McCabe, at the end of a Declan McGuinness delivery, put the Meath lads in front, but an opportunist goal from Ruairi McNamee in the 29th minute had the teams level at the break (1-6 to 2-3).
Despite their two substitutes, Robert McDonnell (two) and Robert Keelaghan (one) kicking three good points between them, St Patrick's were particularly wasteful in the third quarter and trailed by a point (2-7 to 1-9) with 10 minutes remaining.
However, they finished the stronger with three unanswered points from Keelaghan, Lyons and impressive centre-back Niall Kane, and they could even afford the luxury of Barry Dardis' 57th-minute weak penalty being saved by Cormac Hurley.
The Offaly school went all out in search of a late goal, but the winners' defence remained solid and St Patrick's are worthy champions.
Naturally, victorious manager Colm O'Rourke (pictured left) was very pleased with this timely boost "at a bad time for Meath football".
"We probably should have won it easier. We dominated for a long stretch, but we kicked a lot of wides, missed a penalty and gave away two soft goals," he said.
"We had to dig it out again; the lads have been good at doing that all year and lasted out the game very well."
St Mary's boss Emmett McDonnell, who can now focus his energies on his other role as Offaly senior football manager, was fulsome in his praise of the dethroned champions.
"We are picking from a relatively small pool of players and, while we may have lacked in physical size there, we certainly didn't lack in heart. We're very proud of the way the lads played today," he said.
SCORERS – St Patrick's: N Lyons 0-4 (3f), N McCabe 1-0, N Kane, R McDonnell, R Keelaghan 0-2 each, B Dardis, J McEntee 0-1 each. St Mary's: C McMonagle 1-3 (0-3f), R McNamee 1-0, A Mahon, M Cleere, R Caffrey, C Farrell 0-1 each.
ST PATRICK'S – C Farnan; J O'Malley, N O'Reilly, D McGuinness; S O'Brien, N Kane, C Meade; D Ryan, R O'Coileain; N McCabe, J McEntee, E Sheridan; N Lyons, B Dardis, N O'Brien. Subs: R McDonnell for McCabe (h-t), R Keelaghan for N O'Brien (40).
ST MARY'S – C Hurley; D Leech, M Kearney, A Mahon; S Doran, S Moriarty, J Mulranny; L Flynn, D Pyke; M Cleere, C McMonagle, P Connolly; I McKeon, R Caffrey, R McNamee. Subs: C Farrell for Connolly (24), O Lawton for Doran (32), D Kennedy for Mulranny (52).
REF – S Carroll (Westmeath).