Carndonagh CS 1 Midleton CBS 0
THERE was heartbreak for first-time finalists Midleton CBS at Home Farm FC as Jack Doherty’s 82nd-minute finish guided Carndonagh CS towards a narrow triumph in the Dr Tony O’Neill Senior National Cup decider.
Just when the game appeared destined for extra-time, Doherty made a vital intervention to ensure the Donegal school secured their third title in four seasons. It meant it was a very tough week for the East Cork school, as their Harty Cup-winning hurlers were defeated in an All-ireland final two days earlier.
Both teams had reached this showpiece as a consequence of dramatic semi-final victories.
At the RSC last Monday week, Midleton edged out Wexford CBS in a nail-biting penalty shootout - Joe Stack with the decisive strike in a 5-4 success.
Defending champions Carndonagh looked set for an ignominious exit at the Showgrounds on March 5, when they faced a three-goal deficit at the hands of St Louis CS, Kiltimagh. Martin Cavanagh’s side refused to throw in the towel, however, and they eventually claimed a 4-3 win courtesy of Fionn McClure’s stunning 89th-minute goal.
This gave them significant momentum ahead of their visit to north Dublin, but confidence was also high within the Midleton camp.
Setting up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, Stack and Fionn Duggan often sat deep to provide protection for their back-four.
Loic Nguefang was deployed in a lone striker role, while Matthew O’Reilly operated as a link between the midfield and attack.
Charlie Whalley - a goalscoring hero in Midleton’s last-four encounter - offered a strong outlet down the left-flank as the tie progressed.
After his initial surge on 21 minutes, O’Reilly fired just past the target - much to the relief of Carndonagh netminder Pádraig O’Donnell.
Nevertheless, the Ulster outfit posed a number of questions for the Midleton defence once they broke inside the final third.
Corey McBride curled just over at a tight-angle and, following hesitancy by Midleton skipper Arthur Nganou, Mikey Friel had an effort cleared off the line.
The Leeside netminder subsequently came to his side’s rescue just shy of the hour mark, turning Kieran Farren’s attempt behind for a corner.
A long-distance Stack drive was superbly tipped over by O’Donnell in the dying stages of the half - ensuring the sides remained on level terms at the break.
It had been a largely encouraging opening period overall for Midleton, who understandably came into the showpiece as underdogs.
They sensed Carndonagh were there for the taking and ramped up the pressure on the resumption.
Stack almost caught out O’Donnell with an audacious set-piece on the left, before Nguefang also tested the resolve of the Donegal custodian from 25 yards.
In an attempt to weather this storm, Carndonagh introduced Nathan Logue for Donal Doherty on 58 minutes.
This proved to be an effective ploy on Carndonagh’s part, as they quickly got themselves back on the front-foot. Friel jinked his way into the Midleton box on the hour, marginally pulling his shot past the left-hand post.
He later played in Rudden for a clear-cut opening, only for him to once again fire past the range.
Moving into the final quarter, the pacy frontman produced a fine save from the outstretched fingertips of Nganou.
With neither side possessing a clinical edge, Midleton looked set to face extra-time for a second game in succession. This was until Doherty stepped forward to finally break the deadlock.
The Carndonagh midfielder ghosted into the Midleton area and glanced a telling delivery into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
This left Midleton with precious little time to address the balance and their opponents ultimately held out for a narrow win.
CARNDONAGH COMMUNITY SCHOOL: Padraig O’Donnell; Lee McLaughlin, Jake Harkin, Conor O’Donnell, Donal Doherty (Nathan Logue 58); Kieran Farren, Jack Doherty; Mikey Friel, Corey McBride, Fionn McClure; Luke Rudden (Pearse McCarron 85).
MIDLETON CBS: Arthur Nganou; Dylan O’Halloran, Shane O’Riordan, Jamie Collins, Max Ahern; Joe Stack, Fionn Duggan; Neil Cunningham (Jamie O’Hanlon 80), Matthew O’Reilly, Charlie Whalley; Loic Nguefang.
Referee: Derek Carey (DDSL).