ST COLUMB’S College basketball team reached its fourth All Ireland Schools’ Cup Final in eight seasons after a hard fought victory over Our Lady’s, Castleblayney, in the U19B semi-final at Oblate Hall, Dublin, last Friday.
It’s a magnificent achievement for the Buncrana Road college who held off a late surge from the Co. Monaghan side to secure their place in the 2016 Subway Schools Cup final.
The snow and ice all the way from Derry to Monaghan made the early morning bus ride for St. Columb’s much more arduous than one would expect.And this played a significant part in the first half of the game with Our Lady’s blasting into an early seven point lead without reply. The first point for the College came from a free throw by Jack Knox. The lively No. 7 for Our Lady’s made a three pointer and was also strong attacking the basket, making another two scores. Young Year 12 student, Lee Meehan, entered the fray and gave a good account of himself in the senior ranks. Knox, who is enjoying a terrific season, gave the College a lifeline and sparked his team mates into action and five points from Kevin Brady and deuces by Danann Coyle and U16 Irish international Ryan Whoriskey left St. Columb’s trailing by just one at the end of the first quarter. The next 10 minute period saw more of the same sluggishness with Blayney again dominating with scores from Kevin Smits and Adam McMahon. Danann Coyle led another great comeback and scores from Whoriskey and another three from Brady meant the College still only trailed by a point at the half.
The loss of top scorer, Knox, with an ankle injury gave the College concern but his team mates stepped up and made the third quarter the St. Columb’s show, out scoring Blayney 15-2. They finally shook off the cobwebs and applied great intensity to their defence and, coupled with the full court press, they pinned Our Lady’s back and swarmed their ball handlers. The last quarter saw a surge by Our Lady’s and, roared on by their travelling fans, they were able to slice into the College lead and bring a 12 point lead back to two.
St. Columb’s lacked a bit of composure at this time and gave the ball away cheaply three times in the crucial last few minutes. However, cooler heads prevailed and strong driving from Coyle and Knox, who was able to return to the court, left their opponents in foul trouble, and with two shots on offer with every foul Blayney made, the College boys took full advantage.
It was a hard fought win which takes the College to yet another All Ireland Schools Final.