St Fergal’s Rathdowney 1-17 St Brogan’s Bandon 2-12 (AET)
2006 All-Ireland Vocational Schools SHC ‘A’ Final
St Fergal’s College in Rathdowney will contest the All-Ireland ‘C’ hurling final on Saturday in Toomevara and ahead of that, we have rolled the clock back 12 years to when they won the Vocational Schools equivalent.
St Fergal’s had been knocking on the door for a while – it had been over a dozen years of heartbreak where there were many ‘almost’ moments.
Talented players had come and gone without claiming the elusive All-Ireland title. But the 2006 side were one full of talent and skill, with bags of determination to get the job done.
They came up against a side who were on the hunt for a second title in three years, and redemption was very much on the St Brogan’s minds as they slipped up a year previous in the final.
They had also just secured a football title and were now looking to make it a double.
One could of been forgiven for thinking perhaps the Rathdowney school could be up against it, but they proved everyone wrong, even when things began to go against them.
They had leaders throughout the team with captain Conor Dunne at midfield, Matthew Whelan at centre-back, Brian Stapleton in the full back-line and the inspirational Willie Hyland grabbing the scores at half-forward.
Many of the players went on to represent Laois at some level, most notably the four just named.
On the day it was Willie Hyland and Matthew Whelan who really excelled to push St Fergal’s over the line, with Whelan landing two late long-range frees to secure the Rathdowney school’s premier title. Hyland racked up eight points and was exceptional as ever on the frees.
Luck seemed to have deserted St Fergal’s when they lost a lead, their captain Conor Dunne to injury and wing forward Brian Galvin to a red card in the closing stages of the game but they held composure and the game went to extra time.
In extra-time, St Fergal’s seem to rediscover their rhythm and when Padraig Bergin rattled the net for his side it looked as if the day was going to end in celebration for St Fergal’s for certain.
But credit to St Brogan’s, they battled their way back and drew level with just minutes remaining.
However, it would be Matthew Whelan who would have the decisive touches to clinch the game for the Rathdowney school with two late long range scores.
So it was finally done, as St Fergal’s claimed their maiden title and it would not be their last either as in 2013, St Fergal’s again picked their way through the championship to square off against St Brigid’s of Loughrea and came out on top by two points.
On the day, Brian Stapleton’s younger brother, Colm, played at midfield and he claimed a second All-Ireland medal for the Stapleton household.
ST FERGAL’S SCORERS: Willie Hyland (0-8, 0-6 frees), Matthew Whelan (0-4, 0-2 frees, 0-2 65s), Padraig Bergin (1-0), Edward Shirley (0-2), John Phelan, Brian Stapleton and Kevin Finlay (0-1 each).
ST FERGAL’S TEAM: Colm Comerford (Kilcotton); Willie Delaney (Rathdowney-Errill), Jim Doyle (Clough-Ballacolla), Brian Stapleton (Kilcotton); Andrew Kavanagh (Rathdowney-Errill), Matthew Whelan (Borris-in-Ossory), Joe Phelan (Clough-Ballacolla); Conor Dunne (The Harps)(Capt.), Noel Delaney (Kilcotton); Brian Galvin (The Harps), John Phelan (Galmoy, Kilkenny), Willie Hyland (Clough-Ballacolla); Edward Shirley (Clough-Ballacolla), David Kavanagh (Borris-in-Ossory), Padraig Bergin (Kilcotton). SUBS: Kevin Finlay (Borris-n-Ossory), Luke Maher (Camross), Aidan Donovan (Rathdowney-Errill).
Alf Harvey was there on the historic day and below we have some of the best moments he captured.