Schools Focus: Codyre to the fore as The Jes double up
Out-half follows in brother's footsteps as Iognaid retain Senior Cup - but Garbally deny them in Junior final, writes Sean Geary
A triple-header of Top Oil Connacht Schools finals took place at the Sportsground on Wednesday afternoon with three closely-contested games.
Coláiste Iognáid retained the Senior Cup with a 13-7 victory over Summerhill College, Garbally College won a dramatic Junior Cup final and St Muredach's College Ballina won the Senior Development Cup.
Summerhill fought strongly throughout but were unable to penetrate the Iognáid defence until the last play of the game.
It was by no means a vintage performance from The Jes but they were always in control and produced a professional display to secure a 14th senior title in front of a raucous crowd.
Captain Diarmuid Codyre followed in the footsteps of his brother Morgan, who lifted the title last year, with the out-half one of Iognáid's standout performers.
The crucial score came just before the break as prop Garey Keane, a firm favourite among The Jes supporters, broke right through the middle of a ruck to cross.
Codyre's conversion made it 10-0 and a third Codyre kick in the second half sealed the deal.
Credit must go to Summerhill as they never gave in and the Sligo school went in for a richly deserved try in the last play through lock Caoileann Carty, with Brian Cox converting, but they will have to wait another year for their chance to collect their maiden Senior Cup title.
After a dominant start by The Jes, Codyre missed two penalties in the opening 15 minutes with the second, from 45 metres, having the legs but whistling just wide.
A yellow card for Summerhill star centre Ross Hickey for an infringement at the breakdown after 27 minutes proved a major setback and Iognáid took full advantage.
First, Codyre slotted a penalty to make it 3-0 and after further pressure in the Summerhill 22, Keane spotted a gap in the defence to score the all-important first try, with Codyre converting.
In truth, Summerhill never looked like overturning the 10-point deficit after the interval as they just weren't able to hit top gear and Coláiste Iognáid ran out deserving winners.
In the Junior Cup final, a try in the dying minutes from Garbally winger Niall Collins clinched a 17-14 win over the younger Coláiste Iognáid side.
It was an open, entertaining clash with both sides willing to run the ball from anywhere on the pitch.
Playing against the strong wind, a fired-up Garbally side made a flying start.
Coláiste Iognáid were pinned in their own half with Garbally tackling superbly in midfield and after a clearance kick was blocked down, the ball was hacked beyond the in-goal area by the retreating defence for a five-yard scrum.
The Garbally set-piece was solid and No 8 Patrick Grehan picked and barged his way over for the opening try, with Cian Tracey off target with the conversion.
Coláiste Iognáid responded well to that setback and some enterprising attacking play ended with a try for scrum-half Luke Kelly after Grehan had made an outstanding tap-tackle. Darragh Hanrahan added the extras and they led 7-5.
It was only the beginning of a dominant period for the city school and they saw two tries correctly ruled out by referee Stephen Gregory later in the half - for a double-movement and accidental offside - as Garbally clung on for dear life.
Hanrahan did add a penalty in the final minute of the half but it was scant reward for their dominance as they led 10-5 at the break.
As in the opening half, Garbally sprung out of the traps after the interval and a sublime piece of skill from Tracey saw the out-half drift outside the Iognáid midfield and his lofted pass released Padraig Flanagan to race clear and dive for the left corner, but play was called back for a forward pass.
The pressure finally told with 20 minutes to go as flanker John Claffey ghosted through a gap to go in under the posts after Garbally went through the phases in the Iognáid 22 with Tracey's conversion giving his side a 12-10 lead.
Once again, Iognáid regrouped and regained the upper hand when Garbally's Oisin McCormack was sin-binned for coming in the side and Hanrahan had the nerve to slot the tricky penalty to move his school back in front.
It was advantage Garbally in the closing minutes as they pushed for the winning score, and a perfectly judged kick from impressive centre Shane Jennings was touched down by speedy winger Collins to clinch a dramatic victory.
The final game of the day saw St Muredach's clinch the Senior Development Cup with a 23-10 win over Presentation College Headford.
It was a fiercely contested battle as Muredach's led 12-3 at the break thanks to tries from Brian Boland and Joe Gaughan.
Headford touched down through an outstanding Gary Collumb individual effort after the interval but Muredach's finished strongly and two Oliver Feeney penalties, along with a late Billy McVann try, secured the title.
The decision to expand schools rugby in Connacht has paid huge dividends as playing numbers continue to increase across the province.
There are now six competitions for schools of all levels in place with the main Junior and Senior Cups supplemented by the Emerging and Development competitions.