GAA Football

Kevin Brady welcomes expansion of Danske Bank MacRory Cup

St Marys, Magherafelt celebrate their 2017 MacRory Cup final victory Picture by Bill Smyth
By Seamas McAleenan

KEVIN Brady, who guided St Mary’s, Magherafelt to a maiden Danske Bank MacRory Cup title on St Patrick’s Day, is still digesting the draw made on Monday evening for next season’s competition.

“It’s going to be very interesting indeed, these four groups of four. And it is difficult to know how to approach the competition,” said the former Saffron forward.

“I’ve only been involved a few seasons at MacRory level and was still finding my way through the pre-Christmas qualifier system.

“The idea seemed to be to do enough to qualify for the last 12, but not too many coaches were worried about winning the Danske Bank MacCormack Cup for the league.

‘‘MacCormack winners never seem to double up later in the season with the MacRory; maybe it’s about showing your hand in a final where everyone else can see what you have.

“Some schools like to use the leagues before Christmas to look at their full panel, give everyone a game or two and not worry too much about results. That was when nearly everyone qualified for the last 12 in the New Year.

“Last year, two had to be eliminated before Christmas, so you still had a fair chance of avoiding being in a play-off. This year half the teams will have play-offs and four will be eliminated before the end of November.

“So I suppose there is more pressure to make the top two spots in your league.”

The Moneyglass man, however, welcomes the idea of new teams coming into the competition.

“Oh, very much so. The MacRory Cup was always the most-sought-after prize in school football. You were conscious of that when you started in Maghera, St Colman’s or wherever. The more competitive the MacRory is, the more treasured winning it will become.

“I taught in De La Salle in Downpatrick for a number of years in the vocational sector and it’s great to see the strides that their neighbours St Malachy’s, Castlewellan have made in recent years. They will enjoy their MacRory experience, so too St Ciaran’s, Ballygawley – another school with a vocational schools’ background.’’

Meanwhile Peter Hynes, along with Conor Fegan, will be in charge of St Malachy’s, Castlewellan’s maiden voyage in the MacRory waters and he is looking forward to the challenge.

“Yes, it is going to be a huge challenge for us all, players and coaches, and I expect a steep learning curve with no guarantees.

“We see it as a natural progression for the school and it’s what we want at this stage for this group of players. We believe it will benefit us as a school, will help the feeder clubs and will develop our players individually and collectively.”

St Malachy’s, since the early 1980s, had established a strong tradition in the vocational sector with a number of All-Ireland titles, and with the amalgamation of the vocational and colleges’ councils at the start of last season, the intention was always to compete at the top level.

“We would hope to become a strong MacRory contender in years to come, perhaps make the same impact as St Paul’s, Bessbrook has since they came in five years ago. They have managed to sustain it. That’s our goal too.”

St Malachy’s will be in the same group as Omagh CBS, as well as St Patrick’s, Armagh and St Ronan’s, Lurgan.

“We had a great final for the Danske Bank Rafferty Cup last November with St Patrick’s, Armagh and I’d expect many of the same players will be in opposition again.

‘‘St Ronan’s is another school we have played during the last couple of seasons. But Omagh would be an unknown quantity altogether.”

So what’s ahead in mid-October is a new expanded Danske Bank MacRory Cup featuring teams with a variety of aspirations.

The overall winner will savour even more the climb to collect the trophy on St Patrick’s Day – but other schools will be hoping for more modest gains.

2017-18 Danske Bank MacRory Cup

Group A

St Colman’s, Newry; St Patrick’s, Maghera; St Patrick’s Academy; St Patrick’s, Cavan

Group B

St Malachy’s, Castlewellan; Omagh CBS; St Patrick’s, Armagh; St Ronan’s, Lurgan

Group C

St Mary’s, Magherafelt; Patrician, Carrickmacross; St Macartan’s, Monaghan; St Mary’s, Belfast

Group D

St Ciaran’s, Ballygawley; St Paul’s, Bessbrook; Abbey CBS; St Michael’s, Enniskillen

 

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