High School and Kilkenny became the inaugural Leinster School’s Senior Trophy finalists this week as they saw off the challenge of Sutton Park and St Columba’s, respectively, and reach the last four of the Senior Cup into the bargain.
High School will travel to face St Andrew’s in that competition after they survived Sutton Park’s second half comeback to triumph 3-2 on the Howth peninsula.
The Rathgar visitors got off the perfect start when Shane O’Donoghue flung in a rocket of a drag-flick and were 2-0 up inside the quarter-hour when Stuart Gray rounded on a Stephen Reid ball into the circle to crash home from 15 metres.
Three Sutton corners were well dealt with by Gareth Carragher and his defensive team while O’Donoghue’s simple but effective overhead ploy from sweeper meant High School were always a threat on the counter.
But they were undone in the 40th minute by such a tactic when both attacker and defender misread a high ball and Ollie Callelly snuck in behind to shoot. His effort as denied by Carragher but the next wave found Chris Hayes on the flick spot to roll home.
High School restored the advantage by the 45th minute when Gray followed up a rebound off the post after a slick, pitch-length move for 3-1.
Breathing room, though, only lasted for two minutes as Ferdia Carty earned a corner and Harry Spain netted at the second attempt. It left 23 minutes to find an equaliser but, despite Sutton spending more time on the offensive, the visitors looked the more likely to score.
Tom Fee pulled off a fine double-save before being subbed off for an extra outfielder in the last five minutes. Carragher had to produce one more fine save from Hayes to seal High School’s place in the Trophy final, knocking out their second A league school in successive weeks.
Kilkenny, by contrast, were more comfortable as they advanced to the final of the Senior Trophy with a well fought victory over Rathfarnham side St Columba's.
They did not have it all their own way though as, inside three minutes, Henrick Luckor hit well from a short corner but Kilkenny Captain George Smyth saved well low down.
The cats quickly regrouped and took the lead in the 10th minute, when Evan Mathews won a scorner, which Railway Union's Jeremy Duncan scored from despite the best efforts of Columba's keeper Sebastian Schwenke.
They were then awarded a penalty stroke when Eamann Walsh saw his shot blocked off the line by a foot. Duncan stepped up but a fine save from Schwenke kept the score line 1-0 at half time. Eoin Finnegan shot just wide moments after the restart but was soon to be involved in the second goal when he played a smart one-two with Duncan, who finished with an easy tap in.
Columba's were not phased with Paddy O'Malley beating the Kilkenny defence but was unable to get the better of Smyth in goal. Mathews, though, then added a third for the cats with a well taken goal while Kilkenny's fourth goal was a replica of the second with another well worked one-two between Duncan and Finnegan, who scored his second goal of the cup campaign.
Walsh added a fifth two minutes later but Henry Hatton kept the Kilkenny defence on their toes when he saw his shot go narrowly wide.
Duncan was denied his hat-trick when one-on-one with Schwenke but Walsh did add a sixth with an easy tap in to cap off a glorious victory for the cats. Their reward for this triumph is a home tie against All-Ireland champions Wesley on March 5 in the Senior Cup and a final date, two days earlier against High School on March 3.
Meanwhile, in the Minor Cup, St Andrew's beat 2009's U-13 champions Sutton Park 2-1 after extra-time, Wilf King scoring the vital goal two minutes from time.
Leinster Senior Schools Trophy Semi Finals: Kilkenny College 6 (Jeremy Duncan 2, Eamann Walsh 2, Eoin Finnegan, Evan Mathews) St Columba's College 0; Sutton Park 2 (Chris Hayes, Harry Spain) High School 3 (Stuart Gray 2, Shane O’Donoghue) Leinster Senior Cup draw (March 5): St Andrew's vs High School; Kilkenny vs Wesley Minor Cup: St Andrew's 2 (Wilf King, Gavin Browne) Sutton Park 1 aet
* Photos from Kilkenny vs St Columba’s courtesy of Herbie Sharman; words from Marcos Blake. For more photos from the semi-finals, click here