EVEN Leslie Toal could not deny that the last few minutes of the final were like the Leinster Final between Louth and Meath in 2010.
As St Patrick’s trailed by two points, they threw everything at Dundalk Schools, including the kitchen sink, but somehow they could not get the ball over the line for a goal, which would have resulted in a one point win for the Meath side.
For Toal and the management team of the Dundalk side, Padraig Staunton, John Moylan, Donal Hegarty and Declan Hynes, all they could do was watch, give instructions and pray.
It worked though, but for Toal and co, it was frightening stuff.
“That last minute or so was hair-raising”, said an exasperated Leslie after the final whistle.
“It reminded me so much of Croke Park in the Leinster Final last year but we were not letting that goal get past us, no way. We had every big man that we could back there to help us out.
“It was fantastic though. It’s great for the schools.”
Toal was in charge the last time the Dundalk side lifted the title, back in 2002. He’s had to wait nine years for success at this level again, but on the day he thought his side deserved it.
“It’s been nine years since the last one but I thought we deserved it in the end. They came at us in the end, when we lost Paddy Reilly, our captain and a couple of more lads with injuries, but I thought we played very well on the day.”
On the day, Dundalk were unlucky as they did not get one breaking ball or second ball, with everything falling to St Patrick’s. But the effort levels from Dundalk were unmatched as they put challenges in at every point.
“We got a lot of blocks in, but we did not get any breaking balls on the day. We got a lot of other things, but certainly not the breaking balls. Again, our team worked very hard today, especially the defence, which was under a lot of pressure and more so for the last five minutes, but they were fantastic.
“The forward line was great, but I cannot single any one man out, it was a great all round performance.”
Early in the second half, the side had to weather an early storm as Pat’s hit five unanswered points, before Paddy Reilly hit a crucial penalty to put his side in the clear. There was enormous pressure on Reilly, but Toal knew he could do it.
Second half weathered the storm
“We weathered the storm early in the second half and then went on to get a couple of points ourselves. The penalty of course was a big turning point but I thought our player who was fouled for it would of scored anyways.
“There was a lot of pressure on Paddy taking the penalty, but he took them before, in training and he knew what to do. He’s a good player and it was a good penalty.
“That turned the game for us. We had great belief after the penalty, but it was there from the start. We did not play all that well, we can play better than that. In the semi-final at this ground, we played great football against Edenderry, but today they were a different team, a typical Meath team, who think they are never bet. However, we discovered today though that we are never bet.”
At the end, Toal jokingly hinted at retirement, but after witnessing scenes like this, it will take a lot for him to call it a day now, especially when there’s a title to defend.