Sunday 21 January 2018

Promising soccer star Cornally chasing football success in novel Leinster final

Moate CS captain Harry Cornally and St Peter’s counterpart Conor Firman Photo: John Quirke
Moate CS captain Harry Cornally and St Peter’s counterpart Conor Firman Photo: John Quirke

Michael Verney

There's a video doing the rounds online of the 'friendly' reception that Wicklow Schools goalkeeper Mark Jackson received from the St Peter's College supporters before nailing two semi-final frees which sums up everything that makes colleges football special.

With no shortage of skill and passion, these games are often the highlight of the footballing year and anyone in O'Moore Park today for the Top Oil Leinster PPS SF 'A' decider is in for a treat.

It's a novel final pairing, pitting Westmeath versus Wexford. In one corner is a Moate CS side chasing their first title since the Carmelites' victory in 1981, while facing them is a St Peter's squad looking to end their 25-year wait for a second crown.

Having fallen to eventual champions St Benildus in the first round 12 months ago, Moate boss Peter Tormey, a former Westmeath senior, admits they've added motivation heading into the provincial "minefield". The Bunbrosna clubman is assisted by former Galway hurling boss Anthony Cunningham, who led Westmeath's Garrycastle to Leinster club SFC success in 2011, and hopes his final fortune will change today.

"Anthony is a friend of mine and brings a wealth of experience to the set-up so it's great to get him on board in some capacity. He's been in a lot of All-Irelands and hopefully this time he'll get lucky in a final," Tormey said.

"We're on the road since September, a lot of last year's team are still on board and we were disappointed because we won the league and then lost away to Benildus. We felt we had a point to prove and we're righting a lot of last year's wrongs."

With five Westmeath colleges competing at 'A' level, Tormey believes underage football in the Lake County is in rude health and the PE and geography teacher is hoping captain Harry Cornally will scale the steps today.

The talented Tubber teenager has been focusing his attention on soccer in recent years, travelling up and down from Offaly to Shamrock Rovers two or three times during the week, but he's also excelling in the Moate CS half-forward line in what could be his Gaelic football swansong.

Offers came to and play soccer abroad in his younger years but he decided to avoid homesickness and complete his Leaving Cert before hopefully securing a "dream" deal.

"If an opportunity comes this year or next year I'd be pouncing on it straight away, it's been my dream since I was a kid. I have friends who are over there and doing very well. After my exams I'm going to knuckle down and try to take a year at it and see where it takes me," Cornally said.

For now his eyes are glued on footballing silverware, however, but a St Peter's side littered with dual stars including the towering Barry O'Connor, son of Wexford hurling legend George, stand in Moate's way.

Joint-manager Chris Murphy and Wexford footballer Brian Malone expect another electric atmosphere. "Players love that environment, they'll always look back and say 'I was part of that in the lion's den'," Murphy said.

Irish Independent

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