It has been 63 years since St. Malachy’s Belfast last had their hands on an Ulster Schools’ Senior hurling trophy. Back in 1958 they shared the Mageean Cup with St MacNissi’s Garron Tower.
The Antrim Road side was wasteful throughout, accumulating 16 wides, 11 of which came in the second half and a second yellow card for Cian O’Connor almost derailed their bid coming up to the second water break.
Cian’s brother Luke however posted his sixth point to give St Mary’s a 0-11 to 1-6 advantage and coach and former Antrim player Andy McClean then got a couple of minutes to re-organise his team, bringing Callum Walsh back to sweep behind midfield. Although Sean McAuley made it a one point game on the restart, O’Connor hit three frees in a row to open a gap for St Malachy’s.
They still hit wides, but the game clincher came when Ronan Eager played a neat cross field pass for Anthony McGarrigle to hammer to the roof of the Magherafelt net from 25 metres in the 58th minute.
However the game remained in the melting pot as Benin Kelly, a star for Magherafelt on the night, fired in a high ball that went all the way to the Belfast side’s net. But there wasn’t time for a second major and the Cup was on its journey to the bottom of the Antrim Road, St Malachy’s winning the competition at their first attempt.
St Malachy’s were the more industrious team especially during the first quarter, speedier and looking for plenty of space around the half forward line. They got early reward with points from Ronan Eager and Anthony McGarrigle inside the opening two minutes while a brilliant run by Luke O’Connor was only denied a goal by a fine save from Pádraig Kelly.
However they also were wayward in their shooting, displaying plenty of the traits of first time finalists and points from Conhuir Johnstone and freetaker Diarmuid Mulholland tied the sides after nine minutes.
Despite being outplayed, the Convent was still in touch at the water break, 0-5 to 0-3 behind. Their general play improved during the second quarter, but they still trailed by three at the change of ends.
Scoring was slow enough, but the game still seemed to be going St Malachy’s way until Benin Kelly careered down the middle for a Maghrrafelt point.
Conhuir Johnstone took that as a cue only this time his direct run ended with a goal in the 44th minute. Next came the red card for Cian O’Connor and all St Malachy’s good work looked like unravelling.
However they controlled matters in defence, Luke O’Connor kept tagging on points and the goal close to the end was enough to get them over the line.
St Malachy’s Belfast 1-13
St Mary’s Magherafelt 2-7
St Mary’s: P Kelly, J McGurk, D Young, R McCallion, T McOscar, B Kelly 1-1, N O’Donnell, S McAuley 0-1, L Burns, C Curley, D Mulholland 0-3 (3f), C Johnston 1-2 (1f), AJ McCann, C McKenna, J Convery
Subs: R Drain for J Convery (37),
St Malachy’s: P Rogers, E O’Hare, D Maguire, C McAlister, D Quinn, E McCartan, O Kelly, G Mac Adhaimh 0-1, L O’Connor 0-9 (7f), R Eager 0-1, A McGarrigle 1-2, C Killyleagh, C Walsh, C O’Connor, E Logue.
Subs: S Murray for E Logue (43)