Patrician, Carrickmacross have potential to cause MacRory Cup upset
Danske Bank MacRory Cup quarter-final: Friday Feb 9: Castleblayney, 7:30pm: St Ronan's, Lurgan v Patrician, Carrickmacross
Winners of the Danske Bank MacCormack Cup for the past two seasons and beaten MacRory Cup semi-finalists 2016 and 2017, many feel that St Ronan's, Lurgan are ready to push on this season to claim at least a place in the St Patrick's Day showdown.
They were impressive enough in the autumn series of games; three straight wins in the league and then victories over St Paul's, Bessbrook and St Patrick's, Maghera to retain the MacCormack Cup.
Jack Lenehan and Tiernan Kelly have generally managed to control midfield in games and that has left the forwards with plenty of possession.
And up front there are usually plenty of options – all six forwards scored in the MacCormack final against Maghera with Leo Monteiro claiming two of the goals.
Has defence been fully tested?
They haven't been too troubled in any game to date, but that may well change against Patrician High who edged out St Ciaran's, Ballygawley by a single point in a thrilling play-off a fortnight ago.
Darragh Canavan had hit 1-6 and his side led by two points going into the last few minutes in that game.
Patrician though pressed the kick-outs and two points from Andrew Woods and one from Sean Burns took them over the line.
Burns and Woods have been key to this panel's footballing journey through the age groups. Patrician landed a Rannafast title two seasons ago with the pair dominating the scoring returns and in Inniskeen a fortnight ago Woods (5) and Burns (4) returned nine of the 11 points.
However the team itself is hard enough to break down in open play with all six of Canavan's points from placed balls. Most of them were involved in the shock of the round last year in Ballinderry when they took out St Patrick's, Maghera.
The pressure is probably on St Ronan's to maintain their 100 per cent record for the season.
Patrician didn't exactly fire on all cylinders in Inniskeen.
They have however a lot of potential and they could well cause an upset.
Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup quarter-finals: Friday Feb 9:
5.30pm in Garvaghey: Our Lady's, Castleblayney v Inis Eoghain
6pm in St Paul's GAC, Lurgan: Holy Trinity, Cookstown v St Patrick's, Downpatrick
Of the four teams in action this (FRIDAY) evening in the quarter-finals of the Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup, only Our Lady's, Castleblayney and St Patrick's, Downpatrick have ever tasted outright success in the competition.
The last of Downpatrick's four titles came in 2001, while Our Lady's were surprise winners of the Monaghan derby against Patrician High, Carrickmacross in 2015, a decade after their initial success.
Our Lady's have been very impressive throughout the league campaign and easily topped their group with an unblemished record and some very high scoring returns.
By contrast Scoileanna Inis Eoghain had to come through a qualifier with St Pius X, Magherafelt.
In the couple of league games they lost, performances were reasonably good and they were not too far off the pace neither in a two point defeat to Letterkenny nor in the 2-8 to 1-8 defeat to St Louis, Ballymena.
Captain Ciaran Doherty and Conor O Donnell are in the Donegal under 20 panel and they could be a threat but Castleblayney have been more consistent and should win.
Holy Trinity, Cookstown lost last year's final to St Ciaran's, Ballygawley and have a number of the players who appeared in that game back for another assault on the competition.
Their performances however have been very inconsistent; a 3-14 to 0-4 hammering by Castleblayney was followed by a 4-15 to 0-5 win over St Pius X. The latter was a little off the MacLarnon pace, but the scoring there was pretty impressive – as indeed it was in a 2-14 to 5-8 loss to Knock.
Downpatrick were also up one week and down the next – although having to play some of the early games with Tim Prenter in Mageean Cup action for An Dún may have impacted here. Prenter whose family have strong links with Antrim football went on to win a hurling All-star and will also be a big player for them in football.
As with the game last Friday that went to two periods of extra time before being decided on 45s, I think this one could go either way. Each team will have periods of dominance and, if the other can hang on until their purple patch comes, we could end up with another marathon outing.