herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

Andrew's fail to read script

Watkins' goal ends Wes' reign against all the odds

St Andrew's 1

Wesley 0

St Andrew's threw out the form book as David Watkins snatched a brilliant winner seven minutes from time to end Wesley's five-year reign as Leinster School's Senior Cup champions.

Given the pressure, the winger did superbly to hold his nerve as all others around panicked, picking up Stephen Nolan's pass with little room to manoeuvre on the left endline, drew goalkeeper Rob Fitzgerald and lifted sublimely to the roof of the net.

It proved the sole dividing line between two teams who tussled hard with few quarters given; as four yellow-card sin-binnings bear testimony to.

And while goal-mouth incident was a rarity, it was a pulsating fixture nonetheless.

The respective centre-back pairings of Richard Sykes and David Cole for Andrew's and Wesley's Peter English and David McCrea -- all with representative honours under their belt -- provided a masterclass in defensive team-work.

Pre-match, Wesley carried the favourites tag -- a dubious honour created through two league wins this season and last October's annexing of the All-Ireland School's competition in Belfast.

But they were on the back foot inside a minute when Fiachra Maher danced down the left wing only for English to intercept his pull-back.

Luke Chadwick -- the goalscoring hero in 2009's edition -- meanwhile, thrust forward twice to great effect inside the first quarter but could never find the room for a clear sight on goal.

After that lively opening stanza, things began to get more congested in midfield. Conor Motyer was the first to serve a suspension for a sliding tackle.

While his side rode out that five-minute spell, they were lucky to stay ahead on the stroke of half-time as Sykes' drag-flick rattled the backboard only for umpire Kieran Bolger to bring back the play for an earlier Wesley offence.

The second half began in a similar vein, Chadwick and Andrew's Geoff Garrett sidelined for midfield misdemeanours.

During this time, Wesley played their best hockey. McCrea's 60-metre pass foraged a route into Andrew Malcolm's path but goalkeeper Stephen West closed him down within moments to shut out the chance from six yards.

A Shane Madeley cross just evaded the sliding Malcolm seconds later while the ever-dangerous Tom Samuel made headway down the right but was unable to find the final ball.

They would prove the last instances of the reds as an attacking force as Andrew's regrouped superbly with Jake Beirne growing with every biting tackle.

Sykes drew a top-class block from Neal Megarity while Watkins' dig was smothered wide.

But the clearest chance of the day was the one that mattered as Michael Styles' pump ricocheted around the circle.

The crude build-up was instantly contrasted to Nolan's elegant pass and Watkins supplied the finish to bring the Cup back to Booterstown for the first time since 2004.

St Andrew's: S West (capt), M Cronin, A Gaw, R Sykes, F Maher, R Anderson, J Beirne, M Styles, S O'Halloran, D Cole, S Nolan, J Donnellan, G Garrett, S Spence, D Watkins, C Stephens

Wesley College: R Fitzgerald, C Quinn, R Burke, D McCrea, P English, N Megarity, S Doherty, T Samuel, C Motyer (capt), L Chadwick, K Shimmins, S Madeley, A White, J Lewis, A Malcolm, D Sturley, A Roberts, S Margetson

Umpires: Kieran Bolger, Andrew Groves

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