Every second counts in MacRory Cup for St Ronan's, Lurgan and David Wilson
In their first season in MacRory Cup action - in the first year of the school's existence - St Ronan's, Lurgan made it all the way to the last semi-finals. Now, as they prepare to begin their second assault on Ulster schools' football's top prize, David Wilson tells Séamas McAleenan they are determined to learn from and build on their debut performance...
THIS time last year, everything was a step into the unknown for St Ronan’s, Lurgan - a new beginning, an opportunity to set standards.
St Ronan’s, an amalgamation of existing schools in the Lurgan area, adopted the motto 'pro omnibus excellentia' - 'excellence in everything' - and, based on their performances in last season’s Danske Bank MacRory Cup, they have lived out those words.
David Wilson, who is back alongside Micky Donnelly and Colm Fegan in the management team, felt it took them a while to “grow into the competition”.
“I think that we struggled a bit in the league section before Christmas,” he said.
“We weren’t exactly playing poorly - just getting beaten by a few points here and there and that can be frustrating at times for players and management.”
“We were, however, competitive and that was something important for the players to find out. They had been coming from B competitions and different schools etc and were now playing against boys who had been developed into teams over the course of their school careers. I suppose it is no surprise that it took them a while getting up to the pace of MacRory.”
However, the north Armagh school made the grade after Christmas and a 3-4 to 1-4 quarter-final play-off win over St Macartan’s, Monaghan was followed by an impressive 1-13 to 1-10 win over St Colman’s, Newry.
The run only came to an end in the semi-final against another Armagh team - St Paul’s, Bessbrook: “I think that sport in general has had a very positive impact on St Ronan’s, making the amalgamation a lot more smooth than some expected”, said St Peter’s club-man Wilson.
“We had success at ladies’ football - and a handful of Ulster Schools' Allstars in it as well - there was basketball, golf and handball as well as the MacRory run and it all served to bring everyone together.
“You can’t ignore the fact that the staff involved in sport have been rejuvenated because we have more people taking teams and more coaching expertise available.”
Their opening game of the new campaign is against St Paul’s, Bessbrook on Saturday week and Wilson is looking forward to getting into the games.
“We are training away at the minute, but some lads are still with their clubs in championships at various levels and we haven’t really had a full turnout,” he said.
“When we get into a game a week, training sessions can be more purposeful, with things to look at that went well or didn’t go well in the match situation etc.”
Last year, they had two players - Ryan Owens and Barry McCambridge - selected on the Ulster Colleges' Allstar team and McCambridge will be central to the team again this year.
“Yes, Barry is one of our most experienced players,” said Wilson.
“He was two seasons with the county minors and his team, Clann Éireann, just lost the senior club semi-final to Maghery last weekend.”
There are others with experience gained playing in the orange of Armagh - James McAlinden, Sean McAlinden, Kevin McAlinden, Aodhán McConville, Conor Turbitt, Rioghan Meehan, Jack Haddock, Leo Monteiro.
“Some of those boys would be young enough too, but they picked up a lot from playing in the Rannafast Cup last season,” said Wilson.
That Rannafast campaign went well. They lost narrowly in the semi-final to Monaghan, another team that features in the same MacRory group as St Ronan’s, along with St Patrick’s, Dungannon and Abbey CBS, Newry.
“I think that we will have a slightly different mindset going into the league matches this year,” said Wilson.
“A year ago, we weren’t sure what was ahead of us. Now, I think that we know from the start that we are good enough to compete in the MacRory and can build on the experience of last year. But it is such a competitive competition that nothing is guaranteed.”
Wilson believes it will be difficult enough to “survive into the new year”, but hopes St Ronan’s can equal and better last season.
On Wednesday: St Colman’s, Newry