Mannion to fore as Garbally rise to the top again
Connacht Schools Senior Cup: Garbally College 45 Coláiste Lognáid 26
Garbally College coach Gerry Kelly said that the current crop is as good as the famed Ballinasloe nursery has ever produced after they captured the Senior Cup title with victory over reigning champions Coláiste Iognáid at the Sportsground.
It was a 46th title for the most decorated school in the competition and they secured it with a powerful victory, led by the exploits of their star winger Stephen Mannion, son of former Irish international Noel.
Mannion scored two tries and kicked four conversions, while Oisin McCormack, Colm Reilly, Shane Jennings, Joseph Devine and Cathal Dolan were also among the try scorers for Garbally.
Their display was enough to wrestle the title away from the Galway city school, who were seeking their third crown in a row.
"It was a great performance. We are delighted. We knew there was potential in this side but you have to do it on the final day," said Kelly.
"The guys really performed today and scored some great tries. It's one of the best sides we have ever had at Garbally and the good news is we have 10 or 11 of them back next year.
"We have a very big backline, our scrum-half and No 12 are in Leaving Cert, the rest of the backline will be there next year."
This was a repeat of the 2016 decider in which Garbally lost 16-15. And Coláiste Iognáid retained their title last year with victory over Summerhill College from Sligo.
But despite having three players from their success two years ago, Coláiste Iognáid were overwhelmed in the first half. They conceded five tries and trailed 31-14 at the interval after an exciting opening half with plenty of running rugby.
McCormack scored first for Garbally after a kick through from Jennings and Reilly added to that with Mannion's first successful conversion giving Garbally a 12-0 lead after just nine minutes.
'The Jes' needed a reprieve and that came via scrum-half Cathal Forde, who converted his own try.
But they were on the back foot straight away again and conceded a third try in the 15th minute.
This time Jennings scored and Devine followed up with a fourth try to push them 24-7 ahead.
There was still time for Mannion to touch down for his first try, which he also converted.
But Julius Byrne kept 'the Jes' in the fixture with his try in the 28th minute. Forde converted and it meant the holders still had some chance as they trailed by 17 points at half-time.
Gary Keane looked to have brought them back into the game when he scored six minutes after the resumption. But Garbally had the answer again; fittingly it was the brilliant Mannion who scored as they cruised to victory.
"Stephen Mannion was brilliant today. It's historic for him because, as his dad Noel said, none of the Mannions had ever won a senior schools cup before," added Kelly.
"But the whole team and squad got us here and we could have 18 or 19 of those lads back in the senior cup again next year. So it's really exciting for us."
Garbally College - S Jennings; S Mannion (J Coughlan 72), S O'Carroll, C O'Brien, S Horkan (N Horan 56); C Tracey, C Reilly; J Curley, O Dooley (C Dolan 46), S Egan; M Comerford (P Galvin 71), S Grenham; P Grehan (B Codyre 73), O McCormack, J Devine.
Coláiste Iognáid - A Cunningham; C Briscoe (R O'Flynn 64), J Byrne (R Solan 61), J Power, J Grealish (R Durkin 68); C Forde, E Kenny (L Smyth 68); P Smyth (J Madden 64), T de Paor (T Gillanders 50), G Keane; A Mannion (L Solan 66), R O'Connor; J Gallagher, D Leneghan (C Anthony 68), N Hanahoe.
Ref - Jason Craughwell.