The All Ireland Vocational Schools Senior A Hurling Championship was giving a fitting send off in glorious sunshine in Semple Stadium on Saturday as St Fergal’s College, Rathdowney staged a spectacular fightback that will live long in the memory to win the final.
After 36 years of great competition, this was the last ever final in the grade and seldom before in the long history of the championship has a team performed such an incredible escape act.
In ideal conditions for hurling, St Fergal’s never got started in the first-half and went to the break eight points adrift. That deficit became ten shortly after the restart and it looked as if their dream of a second All Ireland title was over.
However this talented side of Laois hurlers drawn from four clubs in the heartland of the sport in the county showed incredible resolve and gradually fought their way back into the game.
After scoring just two points in the first 35 minutes, the scores finally began to flow and they gradually hauled themselves back into the game. With the scores came confidence and as their loyal supporters found their voice, they piled the pressure on their Loughrea opponents.
Loughrea had strolled into the final with two facile wins and when the pressure came on, they were visibly shaken.
St Fergal’s kept coming at them and tow late goals from Aidan Corby and Daire Quinlan put them in front at 2-10 to 0-13 and they held on to record an historic victory.
The final whistle sparked scenes of jubilation in the home of hurling as supporters and players converged on the field to celebrate what can only be described as a miraculous win.
In the midst of the celebrations was manager John Casey who has been to the forefront of the development of hurling in the school since he moved to Laois from Kerry in 1977 and who has now guided St Fergal’s to two All Ireland titles.
See this week’s Leinster Express for five pages of coverage including extensive photogrpahic coverage.