GAA Football

St Colman's, Newry and Holy Trinity, Cookstown clash too close to call

Séamas McAleenan

Danske Bank MacRory Cup quarter-final play off: Friday January 18, 2pm in Páirc Esler: St Colman’s, Newry v Holy Trinity, Cookstown

ALTHOUGH they finished in second place behind St Michael’s, Enniskillen in the group stages of the Danske Bank MacRory Cup, supporters of St Colman’s, Newry have been getting excited about the prospect of a 20th title being landed by the Violet Hill boys to celebrate the 70th anniversary of their first back in 1949.

But today’s clash in Páirc Esler is a potential banana skin for the Violet Hill lads.

Last year’s MacLarnon champions Holy Trinity, Cookstown went on to collect the Paddy Drummond All-Ireland title in Croke Park with a swashbuckling performance.

With over half the team back to complete sixth form studies this year, it was decided to give them a shot at MacRory glory.

The team and management have stepped up to the mark.

In their opening game, Holy Trinity defeated St Patrick’s, Cavan and looked to be on their way to another pair of group points when they led St Macartan’s, Monaghan by 0-8 to 0-6 with a few minutes left.

However the Sem sprang into life and scored 2-2 in the last five minutes of play to steal the points.

Then Cookstown stayed with Maghera fairly well until Mark Devlin picked up a straight red card ten minutes into the second half. That card put him out of the elimination play-off with Bessbrook.

Worse was to follow for Holy Trinity with full-back Caolan Mulgrew black carded in the first few minutes.

But the team showed a lot of maturity to pull together and see out a 1-11 to 1-10 win, led by a superb performance from centre-half back Tiarnan Quinn who scored 1-4 with his breaks forward. Odhrán Mulgrew, Pauric Lagan and Shane Murphy were others to step up to the mark while the return of Mulgrew and Devlin should back up an already stiff challenge for the Newry side.

Cathal Murray prefers that St Colman’s come into the MacRory knock-out stages a little under the radar, but this year they are the only team with an unbeaten group campaign not to reach the MacCormack Cup semi-finals, while all four schools from their qualification group are still in the competition.

They drew with Enniskillen in the opening game and both teams defeated St Patrick’s Academy and Abbey CBS with Enniskillen progressing to the MacCormack on a much superior score difference.

Each game was a tight one for St Colman’s but, like Holy Trinity against Bessbrook, they were able to see out each one for a result – and still play some periods of fast open football to stretch even the tightest of defences.

Free-taker Eamon Brown, Eoghan Byrne, Tom Close and Andrew Gilmore have accounted for most of the Newry scores, while success in the Rannafast Cup in late November will undoubtedly increase the competition for starting places and give management the options on the bench.

Tradition, pre-Christmas form and that Rannafast success are all indicating that Omagh CBS will be facing the blue of St Colman’s in a quarter-final during the second weekend of February – but at the same time, Cookstown could well set up an all-Tyrone battle of wits.

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GAA Football
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