What a day it turned out to be for the intermediate volleyball players at Dalriada School who earned two All-Ireland titles on Monday 9th May 2016. The Year 12 girls were in action against the Southern Champions, St. Raphaels from Galway in a bid to win the McDonald Cup for a third time. The Year 12 boys and Northern Ireland Champions from last year also got to play their Postponed 2015 All-Ireland final against St. Raphael’s, Galway. This was a fixture that did not happen due to logistical difficulties last year, but the Volleyball Association of Ireland were still keen to see the match played, albeit a year later.
There was much anticipation in the first match between the girls because both sides had beaten everyone in their respective schools league and both had also defeated strong opposition from St. Marys, in Dublin. The match was arguably the closest the school had ever contested. The first set went to Dalriada 25-20 and Coach Ian Walker thought his team were coasting. However, in the second set the Galway girls composed themselves a lot better and fought hard to win it 25-18. The third decisive set was the first to 15 but either team had to win by two clear points. After strong serving from St. Raphael’s, Dalriada gave away an 8-2 lead and the game was agonisingly close at 15 points each. With some magnificent defensive play by both teams it developed into a battle of wills with neither side giving up the chase to two clear points. With the match then tied at 17-17 there was a long but decisive rally with some determined defending from Dalriada and they had service at 18-17. Once again a long rally ensued and with the ball in St. Raphael’s side of the court they set up a great attack but the ball landed mere inches out of bounds sealing a euphoric moment for the Dalriada girls.
The Dalriada boys intermediate boys team had waited on their final for almost a year so they were keen to play at All-Ireland level for the first time ever, having won their NI domestic league last year. Captained by the experienced Ewan Rogers the team totally dominated the match winning the first set 25-17 and second 25-14. Head Coach Ian Walker commented “the attacking ability of this team was the key to winning the Northern Ireland Title last year and we stuck to this strategy going into the match and it has paid off.” Last year the Intermediate boys won the Northern Ireland Schools title for the first time and to progress to winning at All-Ireland level is a massive achievement for the boys.
Dalriada Head Coach, Dr Ian Walker commended his players who by now were jubilant with emotion and he added “the 2016 girls Final in particular was an incredibly hard-fought and evenly matched contest to watch. We offer our commiserations to St. Raphael’s who were excellent opponents and both groups of players have produced a spectacle for our sport here today. But only one team can win and I can’t find the words to express how proud I am of all of our Dalriads. Both teams were excellently captained by Jill Leslie and Ewan Rogers and they have earned a fourth and fifth All-Ireland title for the school.”