Aquinas Grammar beat a gallant St Joseph’s College, Donaghmore, in the Fr Faul C Colleges’ Final at a sun-drenched St Paul’s, Lurgan, on Wednesday 18th February.

The game was a tense, hard tackling, possession game in the first half, with both teams’ defences coming out on top with excellent tight tackling emanating from both teams.

Donaghmore scored first through a well taken point from play. Aquinas replied with an inspirational point from Ryan Murray after having wasted four excellent scoreable chances. Donaghmore then forged ahead with another excellent point from play and then, with five minutes before half time, Cristoir Devlin equalised with a well taken point. The physical exchanges at this stage of the game were both hard and fair and the teams went into the changing rooms at half time with a score line of 0-2 to 0-2.

After half time, Donaghmore took the initiative, with a one point lead. The game ebbed and flowed for ten minutes with Aquinas equalising though an excellent point, once again from Cristoir Devlin. Aquinas then scored through substitute Joe Shields, who made an enormous contribution when he entered the fray. Then the turning point of the game occurred when Donal McKeever and his opposite number met in a heavy but fair tackle, leaving the Donaghmore player slightly injured. From this moment on Aquinas, through Donal McKeever and his midfield partner Ryan McKee, took control of the game.

McKeever turned in a match winning performance stroking over three magnificent points from play and an extremely difficult free kick. Aquinas then pushed on to their first ever Fr Faul victory. Donaghmore fought bravely and fairly to the end, leaving the field with their dignity in tact, having played an extremely hard hitting and fair final. Both teams should be very proud of the standard of football, discipline and dignity that they both exhibited before, during and after the game. A minute’s silence for the McAreavy and Harte families was adhered to before the game and, indeed, both were mentioned in speeches after the game.

This was a team effort and its success is due to a strong team and work ethic. The defence has been solid throughout the campaign with Ruairi Cumiskey, Mark Hamill and Conor Costello conceding very few scores in the seven games played.

The half back line of Ryan Murray, Eoin Doherty and Conor Fitzsimons has been dynamic, defending and attacking. The midfield pairing of Ryan McKee and Donal McKeever has been inspirational with both their work rate and ball winning abilities. The forward line developed magnificently as the campaign progressed and Aquinas has been the top scorers in the competition.

The half forward line which rotated around Barry Lynch, Jack McGrath, Michael Robinson and Joe Shields, like the half back line, has been dynamic in both their attacking play and their ability to frustrate opposing defences through committed tackling. The full forward line of Cristoir Devlin, Caolan Schaible and James Lawlor had the winning formula turning attack into scores throughout the campaign.

Of course it is essential to have a strong bench and the team was bolstered by Cormac Hannan, Rory Hughes, Tomas Flanagan, Conor Dunlop, Mark Gillen, Ruairi Doyle and Niall Kelly. All of the panel members contributed to this victory through their presence at training, their performances when called upon and their support. This will be a memorable win for the year 12s involved and a valuable experience for the Year 11s on the panel. GAA in Aquinas is showing great progression and it augurs well for the future. The coaching team of Mr Deazley, Mr Savage and Mr Evans was greatly impressed by the team’s hard working attitude and commitment, and they are extremely proud of the boys.