All-Ireland U19 ‘A’ Schools Basketball Final
ARDSCOIL RATHANGAN………………………………………….. 70
ST EUNAN’S, LETTERKENNY……………………………………… 67
BY DAIRE WALSH
There were jubilant scenes at the National Basketball Arena on Monday afternoon, as Ardscoil Rath Iomhghain completed an extraordinary final-quarter comeback to seal the Under 19 ‘A’ Boys All-Ireland Schools Cup at the expense of St Eunan’s, Letterkenny.
In a tentative opening to the contest, Rathangan had a number of opportunities to open their account, but thanks to well-worked two-pointers courtesy of Sean McGettigan, Mathias Traulsen and Matthew Deeney, the Donegal outfit moved into a six-point lead.
Rathangan finally got up and running with two points from forward Ciaran Maher, but they were quickly reined in by a majestic Andrew McGeever three-pointer for Eunan’s. Subsequent efforts via McGeever and Deeney created even greater daylight between the teams, before Shane Maughan (two) added to Rathangan’s tally.
Centre James Byrne also put his name to the scoresheet, but thanks to expertly-converted shots from McGettigan and influential skipper McGeever, Eunan’s held a 17-6 cushion at the end of the first-quarter.
They continued to take the game to their south Kildare opponents upon the resumption, and McGeever increased his personal haul to nine points just 15 seconds into the second-quarter.
Mark Thornton’s five-point salvo provided an ominous look to the scoreboard, and Maher’s 13th minute two-pointer was a timely boost during a difficult period for Ardscoil.
This only offered a temporary reprieve to Rathangan, however, and even though Maher (four), Byrne (four) and Maughan all found the target prior to the interval, five points from Traulsen increased Rathangan’s deficit to 23 (41-18) in time for the third-quarter.
An increase in tempo was required if Rathangan were to force their way back into the reckoning at this stage, and thanks largely to 10 points from the magnificent Byrne, Rathangan had their most productive quarter to date. Byrne, Maughan and Jason Dempsey were also accurate from tight angles, but equally, Eunan’s had crucial interventions of their own from McGeever, Deeney and Thornton.
With 22 points (58-36) separating the teams ten minutes from the end, following a powerful offensive charge by their well-drilled counterparts, a Eunan’s victory seemed inevitable.
The never-say-die attitude of Rathangan shone through in the closing moments, though, and in a four minute spell, they amassed 21 points without reply.
With 14 points between them in this juncture, Whelan and Byrne were the most prominent contributors to this spectacular scoring spree, and they also had strong showings from Whelan, Maher and the ever-impressive Maughan.
Eunan’s did display admirable defiance by producing a 35th minute McGeever three-pointer, but it was clear that the Rathangan challenge was not going to relinquish.
A McGettigan three-pointer helped Eunan’s to maintain a three-point hold over their Leinster counterparts, before additional unanswered scores by O’Loughlin (four) and Byrne (single) moved Rathangan into the ascendancy for the very first time.
It looked like heartbreak was on the cards when Deeney secured a three-pointer under enormous pressure, but in the final minute of a pulsating finale, two-point haul from Maughan and O’Loughlin, alongside a free shot point by Whelan, capped a remarkable turnaround and led to joyous celebrations from the travelling Ardscoil Rathangan supporters.
ARDSCOIL RATHANGAN: Shane Maughan, Michael Fitzsimons, James Byrne, Aaron Whelan, Jason Dempsey, Austin Bolger Hynds, Connor O’Loughlin, Dillion Broderick, Ciaran Maher, Conor Jamieson, Dylan Dunne, Jack McEvoy, Eddie Bennett.
ST EUNAN’S, LETTERKENNY: Mathias Traulsen, Cale O’Donnell, Matthew Deeney, Aaron Deeney, Raymond Rodgers, Sai Mohammed, Andrew McGeever, Mark Thornton, David Whoriskey, Sean McGettigan, Jack Lawler, Thomas Vaughan.