Just two years after playing their first ever hockey match, Limerick’s Ard Scoil Rís recorded a memorable victory over Bandon Grammar School in the Munster Schools Junior A Cup competition last week.
Lining out against a powerhouse of schools hockey featuring several Munster and Ireland players, the Ard Scoil squad knew it would be a difficult challenge and that they would need to be clinical when the opportunities arose.
And so it proved to be as they delivered a performance to match their ambition.
The backline started the game well giving structure and confidence to the rest of the team in the early stages, offering no real chances to Bandon in the first quarter.
As the game progressed, the Ard Scoil midfield came more into it, with Darragh O Connell and Edward Forde gradually gaining confidence, while throughout the entire game Jack Power neutralised the threat of Ireland U16 captain Mark Collins in a performance so dogged that the Clare selectors should be taking note of the Clonlara man!
He was aided and abetted by William O Leary who, nominally named upfront, popped up everywhere on the pitch at critical times to ensure Bandon never got a foot hold in the game. All the while Stephen Healy was proving dangerous upfront.
Midway through the second quarter, Cillian Archer struck. One chance. One goal. A cracker.
Ard Scoil knew what to expect in the second half and they were not disappointed. Bandon threw the kitchen sink at them but Ard Scoil captain Jack Stockil put in an immense performance, calm and collected as the heat and tension ramped up around him
Frankie Naughton, along with a resurgent Hugh O Connell and on tune Rory Quirke, they proved to be the rocks on which many Bandon attacks perished.
However the Cork side eventually broke through, despite flurry of great saves by the Ard Scoil keeper.
Ard Scoil immediately reset and went at the Bandon with renewed intent. The desire to grasp their opportunity was clear. Archer broke, beat two defenders and then scored a sublime goal with a shot that defied physics – looping over an onrushing keeper and nestling in the net.
Both sides had a number of chances before the final whistle with George Murphy adding energy to a tiring side.
The day belonged to Ard Scoil and who would deny them, having invested so much in getting to this landmark game. Well done to the entire squad including Gerry Andrews, Jack Coady, Sam Kennedy and Hugo Flynn, coach Marie Crawford and managers Ms O Leary and Ms O’Brien.
Next up is a home semi-final against Ashton and an Easter trip to play at the HDM International tournament in Holland.