Drumshanbo Vocational School saw their bid for glory at the semi-final stage when an epic comeback against St. Raphael’s Loughrea fell short after five incredible sets.
ST RAPHAEL'S LOUGHREA BEAT DRUMSHANBO VS 25-20, 25-18, 18-25, 22-25, 15-5
It was some performance from last year's All-Ireland Cadette winners!
For two sets Drumshanbo matched their opponents for so long and then fell away. Then, suddenly in the third, Drumshanbo upped a gear. They gradually wore down their opponents by constant, constant, pressure.
There was huge controversy as well with both teams bitterly disputing points and even one supporter being expelled from the hall!
Drumshanbo levelled the match and, even led in the final set. But then, just as suddenly, they tired and the huge effort of the comeback proved too much as their much more experienced opponents survived.
It started well too. Caleb Duffy spiked a winner. Raymond Gallagher, who never missed a serve in all the campaign, served over 3-1 ahead. But poor setting, which dogged Drumshanbo for their opening sets, gave little attack opportunities and they fell 3-9 behind.
Raphael had changed their style from earlier rounds and it took Drumshanbo a while to read them. Kian Gibbons came on and, a run of his serves, blocks from Ozdobinski and Duffy brought it so close at 18-19 but Raphael's were better.
Tomás McManus had a great start to the second set with his great handling and run of four serves ending in an ace. Drumshanbo led all the way to 14-12. Then back came another trough from the Leitrim school and Raphael's were two sets up.
A year ago Drumshanbo had come very close to beating Raphael's on their way to the title. Now, despite their cadette All Ireland, Drumshanbo were losing easily.
Then out of the blue, Drumshanbo matched Raphael's. The third set was a huge jump in standard and both sides hit unstoppable winners. There were a huge number of combination winners were a perfect first pass was set up high by the setter and then hit down.
As Raphael's hit back Higgins dived and Duffy blocked & flicked winners. Drumshanbo went 17-12 ahead but Raphael's defended and defended and with Drumshanbo errors, levelled at 17-17. Back again came the combination attacks on a Higgins run of serves.
The intensity was huge as the winner-all in one rally of 29 touches, that’s what it took to win one point! Two points later It took 39 touches and three McManus spikes to bring it to 21-17. Finally they wore down Raphael’s.
Drumshanbo raced into a 6-2 lead in the fourth set on Gibbon’s serve with more Duffy winners. Drumshanbo led 14-9 Raphael's fought to 14-12. Higgins was outstanding in the backcourt.
Ozdobinski, with no service missed all match, went on a run of six serves and unbelievably Raphael's made a series of errors. Drumshanbo led 23-16.
Maybe they should have seen the warning as Raphael's hit three winners and suddenly Drumshanbo found it very difficult to get over the end line. But in the end a spike from McManus and a well-placed volley from Higgins levelled the match.
The early final set went well. A ripping Beirne serve that offered Duffy an easy winner put Drumshanbo 3-2 ahead. Then maybe all the toil of the comeback became too much. Drumshanbo just missed targets and, eventually smelling victory Raphael's pounced.
Raphael's’ team were the Cadet A champions the year before Drumshanbo. It would have been a huge win to beat a team a year older than them. Five of the eight Drumshanbo players had 100% serves in a very high standard.
Drumshanbo panel: Jacek Ozdobinski (17), Kian Gibbons (18), Caleb Duffy (12), Gareth Higgins (8), Fergal Gilmartin, Kevin Moran (1), Tomás McManus (13), Cian Beirne (8), Raymond Gallagher (2), Fergal Moran, Diarmuid McKiernan