In a thrilling contest Rockland came out on top in the minor under-18 final against a resilient and determined St. Barnabas that helped to make the game one of the best seen at this level in years.
Kieran Walsh was the difference as he pushed the game into extra time with one of the best scores seen in an age. He had help, however, as Gavin Lee was outstanding in the center of park and Pat Guerin made a brilliant penalty save all to help the side to victory.
St. Barnabas jumped out the gate early and had three points on the mark before the fourth minute. They also had a clear goal chance, but Sean Lawless’s screamer went agonizingly wide.
Rockland awoke to the task, however, and they were level by the 10th minute but could have had more. After two points from play Aiden Weir was pulled down for a penalty, but Kieran Walsh’s shot shimmed the bar for a minor when he was thinking goal.
The scores started to come hot and heavy in the aftermath. St. Barnabas had a penalty of their own when Eddie Hogan was fouled, but Guerin made a brilliant save on the ensuing kick.
Rockland went ahead when the big midfielders Lee and Galvin went back to back, but a point from Gerry O’Sullivan made it five up with his first score of the day.
Aiden Weir was now playing a deeper roll and some of his passing was outstanding as he first set Walsh up for a score and was firing intelligent passes into space.
The sides swapped goals with O’Sullivan and Walsh the scorers, the first from play, the second when Brian Maher was fouled for a penalty.
It was all Saints however as the half wound down. Two Lawless points were followed by O’Sullivan's second goal when he picked up a short free and made no mistake. Both sides had points to finish the half which left St. Barnabas four ahead, 2-8 to 1-7.
The sides swapped points before Rockland converted the fourth penalty awarded of the day. Again it was Walsh, with the drive after he was fouled in possession.
St. Barnabas extended their lead with a burst of 1-1. O’Sullivan set up Conor Raferty for the major.
In a game of swings, again Rockland came back. Lee slotted a point over and then linked with Walsh for a very good goal.
Walsh followed with a point from a free when he was fouled on the run to level the tie, but it followed a skirmish when at least four were lucky to stay on the field.
Rockland had a clear chance to go ahead, but Brendan Cole made two excellent stops to keep his team in the contest. The clock was ticking down but again the tide turned.
The Saints added two points to their total with the final one coming with 55 seconds on the clock. On the resulting kickout Rockland had tremendous work to do. And they did, with superstar Kieran Walsh doing all the work.
He took a pass at the 50 on the left wing. Soloing forward, he jinxed his way to the 30 and slotted the ball over the lathe for the draw and a push into extra time.
The first period of extra time was dominated for five minutes by Rockland, then five for the Saints. The out of towners had three points from Lee, Walsh and Curry before Barnabas cancelled them out with scores from Raferty, Curran and Lawless, with the nifty forward getting his with time closing.
It set us up for a final 10 minute period with the score now at 3-15 apiece. It was all Rockland at least on the scoreboard in the final 10. They didn’t get their first score until eight minutes were gone, but it was the final nail.
Maher rifled over when set free by Lee, and man of the match Walsh fisted over the final score to punctuate his personal performance.
There were many stars for the winners. Pat Guerin with the penalty save started it. Chris Coughlin and Brendan Kirby were excellent in the half back line, while Gavin Lee and Martin Galvin both had inspirational moments in the middle. The high fielding of Lee was also a pleasure to watch.
Aiden Weir did a lot of constructive ball carrying, and his passing was clinical at times. Brian Maher had a good hour, with man of the match Kieran Walsh remarkable. With the game in its last minutes, he had the smarts to carry the ball deep into the corner and back out and take nearly a minute of the valuable time.
For the vanquished, Brendan Cole was outstanding. Under a lot of pressure all day, he never flinched, and his catch of a long dropping ball in extra time was top class.
Sean McEvoy, Conor Raferty and Niall Curran off the bench also contributed, while Gerry O’Sullivan took his chances very well. Sean Lawless had a very good day and was close to man of the match honors for his scoring alone.
St. Barnabas: 1 Brendan Cole, 2 Francis Cole, 3 Brian Mahon, 4 Ryan Curley, 5 James Drago, 6 Sean McEvoy, 7 Joe Goff, 8 Matt Schumacher, 9 Conor Raferty (1-1), 10 Mike Hannon (0-1), 11 Eddie Hogan (0-1), 12 Alan Wynne, 13 Ciaran Bennett, 14 Jerry O’Sullivan (2-3), 15 Sean Lawless (0-7). Subs: Robert Marlovic, Brian Redican, Pat Heffernan, Niall Curran (0-2).