Ratoath 2-10 Trim 1-8
After countless defeats down the years against the standard bearers at this age group, Ratoath turned Trim over for the first time to land a long-awaited county title.
It was a huge coup for a bunch of players who have waited so long and who thoroughly deserved their moment in the sun after a drama-packed under-16 Division One final that went right down to the wire.
From five down coming to the end of normal time, 14-man Trim refused to give up despite having a player sent off in the first half and grabbed a goal. But joint captain Cathal Sherlock made a vital catch from the puck-out to set in motion the score that wrapped up an historic victory. His ball found its way to Fionn Murphy who lead the attack in fine style and when his shot came back off the post, the all-action Ruairi Coulter was on hand to finish it to the bottom corner of the net and deliver the Cup.
Joint captains Cathal Sherlock and Fionn Murphy raise the U16 Division 1 HL Cup
The scenes of celebration after showed how much it meant to this group of players. Tom Roddy's brave saves in the second half under pressure was part of a steely defensive effort, Shane Duggan clearing another ball brilliantly off the line with Aidan McLarnon hurling well in the other corner. Trim lost a player in the first half in a moment that was out of character with an honest, hard-fought game and allowed Sean Murphy to dictate the play and orchestrate things in a sweeper's role.
Brian Moore put his body on the line all day at wing-back while Cian Kelly was a commanding presence at centre-back, firing over an inspirational point in the second half as well. Aaron Kelly too was outstanding alongside him, rampaging forward on countless occasions, as Ratoath settled quickly via a quality score on the run from Cathal Sherlock.
With Marc Donnelly and Ruairi Coulter making a big impression around the middle and Alex O'Kane and Harry Haskins doing huge work to feed the inside line, Jack Lanigan made Ratoath's pressure pay with three well-taken frees. Trim finished the half strongly though to sneak ahead at the break 0-6 to 0-5, turning with the wind at their backs.
After conceding the first score of the second half to go two down, Ratoath showed huge heart and character to dominate from there on. The switch of Fionn Murphy to full-forward had an instant impact and he fired over a brilliant point from distance. Stephen Rice's clever handpass then played Murphy in behind the Trim cover and the same player blazed the back of the net.
Ratoath had their tails up this stage and Cian Kelly's booming point was added to by substitute Jason Farrell with Ruairi Coulter also doubling on a ball over the bar. Jack Lanigan added another free to keep Trim at arm's length.
It was Ratoath's team play that was key throughout though, a Harry Haskins' lay-off to Murphy again helping to create the goal chance that saw Ruairi Coulter find the net and seal a deserved victory.
Ratoath scorers: Fionn Murphy 1-2, Ruairi Coulter 1-1, Jack Lanigan 0-4 (frees), Cathal Sherlock 0-1, Cian Kelly 0-1, Jason Farrell 0-1
Ratoath: Tom Roddy; Shane Duggan, Sean Murphy, Aidan McLarnon; Brian Moore, Cian Kelly, Aaron Kelly; Marc Donnelly, Ruairi Coulter; Harry Haskins, Fionn Murphy, Alex O'Kane; Stephen Rice, Cathal Sherlock, Jack Lanigan. Subs: Sam Coughlan for Aidan McLarnon, James Duffy for Alex O'Kane, Jason Farrell for Stephen Rice, Stephen Rice for Brian Moore. Squad members: Luke Huynh Hurley, Shaun Donnelly, Callum Browne, Cathal Byrne