Drumshanbo Vocational School’s bid to claim the All-Ireland Schools Senior B Volleyball title ended in defeat last Thursday but not without a stirring performance from the Leitrim school that pushed Mallow’s Davis College all the way in a thrilling and exceptional encounter.
Davis College Mallow beat Drumshanbo VS 19-25 25-15 25-18
UCD was the venue for the highly anticipated clash between the two unbeaten schools in this competition. The standard of the senior B All Ireland competition had been very high this year, with both teams having faced and beaten good quality sides.
Large groups of supporters from both schools followed their teams to Dublin which added to the atmosphere of the event. It was a thrilling game with both sides edging ahead multiple times. But despite being dominated by Drumshanbo in the first set, Davis took the title home in a very solid composed manner.
It’s difficult to find the words to describe the close nature of the game. For Mallow, in the first set, everytime they scored a winner, they nearly seemed to miss their serve. In the same set Drumshanbo, after looking a superior class, lost the lead, but then hit a purple patch.
The second set followed a similar path. First Drumshanbo led and looked like closing the game in straight sets, then Mallow blew them off the floor with their serves.
Again Drumshanbo looked “A” class at the start of the final set. Again Mallow held tight and wore down the aggressively attacking Drumshanbo. In the end the steady beat the high flyers.
Drumshanbo captain Shane McNama had dream start. He blew away memories of his previous final by hitting the first winner and followed with an ace. Then Gary Regan did early damage with a string of hits. This put a bit of air between the two sides at 4-1 and 5-3.
In the middle of the Mallow blocked Brendan McCormack twice after he had hit 3 winners and a subtle come back appeared to be on the cards for Mallow. The match was level at 5,6,10,11 and 12. Then Jamie Christie hit seven serves in a row with Diarmuid McKiernan dominating the net. That gave the Leitrim school a lead they held for the set.
The early second set gave no clue as to what was to follow. Unstoppable hits from McKiernan and Regan and more serves from Christie lifted Drumshanbo 8-4 ahead. Then Mallow took control. Irish International Stephen McAvoy hit 4 aces and 7 scores, getting Mallow in a commanding position.
Drumshanbo pulled back from 11-8 to 11-10 and from 17-12 to 17-15, helped by good team work, winners and aces from McCormack and good defense from Shane Gillespie. Then followed long battles which saw Mallow save hits and win by Drumshanbo hitting the final errors.
Shane Walsh came on, played his corner very well, but Mallow were equal to his attacks and the lead remained just too great. Finally Michael Foley came on but Mallow were inspired. The size of the set win left the Leitrim squad and their supporters questioning what just happened.
The atmosphere was mounting as both sides once again took court. Drumshanbo shocked everyone by taking a five point cushion lead from the beginning. Team work was the key as the points started to tick over. McNama the captain, led by example with some impressive defense and attack.
Mallow were shocked but far from beaten as they began to eat into the lead. Then the Mallow serve began to push the ball deep into the Drumshanbo and leveled at 10-10. Ryan Heron came on again and had an unbelievable winner due his quick reaction. Drumshanbo went back to lead 14-12.
But errors were the deciding factor as they started to creep into the game of the Leitrim school.
Mallow again hit deep serves. Once the Cork squad got going, their defense was outstanding, with spike after spike being returned calmly. And this was how it ended with great hits from Drumshanbo and then getting worn down. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Drumshanbo side as they had come so close to all Ireland glory.
The game was spectacular. Both teams were hungry with a high skill level which made for some thrilling volleyball. Although anticlimactic from a Drumshanbo point of view it really could have gone either way. Neutrals could not stop commenting on the high standard.
The continuous attacking Drumshanbo contrasted with the very athletic Davis defense. Four Irish internationals, International trainers in Mallow, three star Polish students, a school three times the size of Drumshanbo all helped Mallow bring the All Ireland back to the rebel county.
Although other Drumshanbo players were definitely in contention, there was no surprise when McKiernan was awarded the Most Valuable Player award. Nobody rose as high or hit down better while his defense was impeccable.
Drumshanbo had failed to win a set in their last 4 finals. These boys have shown the way back.
Serves: Regan 3, S. McNama 7, McCormack 10, Heron 3, Foley, Gillespie 7 (100%), Christie 12, McKiernan 6, Walsh 1, Niall Sorohan, Shane Flynn, Barry McNama