GAA Football

St Ronan's Lurgan aim to retain MacCormack Cup against fancied St Pat's Maghera

Aisling Press, Head of Branch Banking at Danske Bank and Jimmy Smith, Chairman of the Ulster Schools GAA pictured with Oisín McWilliams (St Patrick’s, Maghera), Tiernan Kelly (St Ronan’s, Lurgan), Jude McAtamney (Maghera) and Jamie Haughey (Lurgan), who will compete in this morning's MacCormack Cup final.?Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Séamas McAleenan

Danske Bank MacCormack Cup final

Thursday 11am in MUSA Cookstown

St Patrick’s Maghera v St Ronan’s Lurgan

It is fair to say that not too many teams set out at the start of the year to have the Danske Bank MacCormack Cup in the school’s trophy cabinet before Christmas. There is more focus on getting things in place for a knock-out run leading to MacRory Cup glory on St Patrick’s Day.

And since the MacCormack Cup was introduced in the 2003/4 season, only once have the two Cups sat in the same school cabinet – and that was achieved by Omagh CBS in 2004/5.

Of course if a school is in position to contest the latter stages of the MacCormack Cup, they are already into the MacRory quarter-finals and theoretically at least should stand a good chance of going further.

St Ronan’s are the holders and they have contested the last two MacRory Cup semi-finals, which means that the nucleus of the team is quite experienced.

That experience was evident this autumn both in their three group games and then in the derby semi-final at the end of November against St Paul’s Bessbrook.

Twice during the course of the semi-final they established four point leads, but were reeled in again before Ruairi McConville hit the second of the team’s three goals and they pulled away for a 3-10 to1-8 win.

Since the Lurgan amalgamation of schools St Ronan’s have been building well towards making the breakthrough at MacRory level. With a MacCormack Cup title last year, they have proof, if proof was needed, that they are one of the top teams, and winning the MacRory, not the MacCormack, will now define them.

Maghera have been the stand-out team this year – and will probably have welcomed the few weeks’ break they got between the semi-final and final.

That’s because many of their players have been flat out all year with Derry minors, five of them started in the All-Ireland final and another five were on the bench. Then there have been club commitments in hurling and football as well as a successful run to the school’s 14th Mageean Cup hurling title.

Indeed such was the intensity of games that players like Richie Mullan, Tiarnan McHugh, Ruairí Rafferty and Niall McNicholl have not featured for more than 30-35 minutes in the MacRory Cup so far.

Not that their absence has been really noticed with the McWilliams twins, Oran McGill, Jude McAtamney and Conleth McShane driving the team forward to relatively easy victories in each of their four matches.

The accuracy of Lorcan McWilliams has been phenomenal with four goals and 32 points from the four games, including 2-6 last time out in a 3-12 to 1-5 derby win over MacRory champions St Mary’s Magherafelt.

The execution of the second goal just before half-time, a free kick planted in the top corner before the defence had got into place, was the work of a player thinking on a different level.

There has to be a lot of competition for places in the team and where better can a player put down a marker than in the next match?

Both teams are well set-up and both teams are playing with a lot of confidence. So it should be a very good game.

However the quality and diversity of player on the Maghera bench means that there are a number of game-changers waiting to make their mark. They should be collecting the Cup for only the second time in its 15-year existence and then they can set about dismantling the theory that the league and championship double can’t be done.

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