When Rice College landed at The Sportsground on Wednesday they did so to upset the Sligo Grammar junior League/Cup double campaign.
After 60 minutes of normal time they failed to do so, 10-3 down with time up on the clock. The next three minutes however yielded half a fairytale finish as Westport centre Diarmuid McGreal skirted cross-field to sideline screams imploring him to pass. He ignored the soundtrack, mixing his own instead.
Ten metres from the Clann Terrace sideline he dashed 90degrees to his right, shot through the Sligo Grammar cover-defence and weaved his way to the tryline.
His five points put Westport’s youngsters within two of the Grammar contingent and one conversion away from a replay. Team-mate, captain and kicker Tom McHale, who had not enjoyed an overly productive day with the boot, struck it nicely. A moment off the tee it never looked like missing.
Grammar’s double will have to wait.
The Supermac’s Connacht Schools Junior Cup final pitted League champions Sligo Grammar against a resurgent Rice College outfit who looked the more cohesive on attack throughout, but failed time and again to retain possession long enough in the face of desperate Grammar defence.
Grammar, by contrast, was the more sizable pack but hovered too long and too often in towering talisman Matthew Cosgrove’s shadow.
Cosgrove as eight, captain, and kicker (both goal and clearance) two-tried his way to victory over Castlebar’s St Gerald’s in December’s League final. Nine minutes into Wednesday’s final, he looked about right to repeat the feat scoring within minutes of a blistering run down the right-hand touch.
Rice kicked into overdrive off the restart stung by the cheap score and no doubt the realisation if four had failed to stop Cosgrove six metres out, they best commit five.
Eight minutes later Rice posted their first points, a Tom McHale penalty to narrow the gap to four. Cosgrove sought to extend it at 22minutes when he opted for the shot 41metres from the Rice line. His mighty strike, straight as a die, cleared the bar by about a metre and a half, seven points now the deficit with seven minutes left in the half.
Rice again returned the blow with interest. For the remainder they camped deep in Sligo’s redzone, and even crossed the line but robust wrap tackles denied the score. Two missed penalties hung heavy over the Rice halftime show.
The second half proved slow for those on scoreboard duty but arguably made for better viewing than the opening thriller. Rice, confident in their abilities to create more as a 15, adopted a kitchen sink approach throughout the final 30. Grammar, wary of a wounded Westport, devoted much of their second half energy to preserving a lead rather than extending it. To their credit, they did so for the duration, but for the final play.
McHale, who had struggled in the first half with his line spraying two either side of the uprights, added the extras and the despondent Grammar could do little else but watch it sail through the posts and await the replay.