By Shaun Casey
ST Joseph’s Grammar, Donaghmore will take on Abbey CBS of Tipperary this Saturday in The Downs in Westmeath with All-Ireland glory up for grabs.
The Munster boys qualified for the final by seeing off Sligo’s St. Attracta’s Community School after a dramatic penalty shootout.
Donaghmore, on the other hand, rattled off three goals to nudge past Ardee Community School by nine points in their Paddy Drummond Cup semi-final. That led to an unforgettable two weeks of build-up, with the whole community getting involved and supporting the team.
“It’s a massive occasion for the whole school, it’s stuff we’ve been dreaming of for a few years now,” said team manager Niall Kelly.
“They’ve been putting in a lot of work for a number of years and it’s so nice to finally get to the big day, All-Ireland final day.
“It’s on the back of years of work from various different teachers throughout, from first year the whole way up. It’s not just success for this team and this management, it’s every person who’s helped out and all the past pupils that make a big day like Saturday happen.
“The build up to the game has been fantastic, it’s a real fairytale. The school, it’s always a pleasure to work in but it’s even better this week. We have ex-pupils, we have parents, we have supporters, local clubs and I can’t speak highly enough of them.
“Some people have been so generous with their time and so generous with helping out. The boys have been fed; they’re looked after. We have ‘Ghosts Pizza’ delivering pizza for them after training.
“The generosity of the general public and the help we have had is lovely to see. It’s a first experience for our school at this level and hopefully we can do it again some other time.”
There’s been a spring in the step of the St Joseph’s lads since landing their first ever MacLarnon Cup title back in February. They carried that winning style into the semi-final and will hope to collect another piece of silverware, and another piece of history, this weekend.
Donaghmore’s eye for goal has been particularly important in their last two outings, having hit the net seven times in two games, and Kelly puts that down to hours of practice.
“It’s something we worked on before Christmas,” added Kelly. “We actually played three games in the group stages and scored no goals and conceded a few. We put a big emphasis on it over Christmas, we tried to focus on scoring goals.
“But at the same time, in the MacLarnon Cup final we were fortuitous with a few goals. Last week we earned a few goals, but I think the boys need to be clinical up front and it’s probably the thing we need to work on, finishing up top.
“I know we might have scored three goals (against Ardee in the semi-final), but we only scored seven points and that’s something we’re trying to work on because we do create a lot of chances, but we need to learn how to finish the moves off.”
Now, it’s just about adding the finishing touches and Kelly offered special mention to the whole management team for Donaghmore’s achievement.
“Training has been great. I’m lucky that we have surrounded ourselves with great men. We have Donal Gallagher there, a teacher in the school for the last 20 years, Tom McGrath from Fintona, and ‘Minty’ (Paul O’Hagan) from Galbally.
“Those boys are first class. They’re football mad and everything is organised and planned. Training has been going well. Obviously with two-week turnarounds you have to do a bit of recovery and then you have to go again.”