GAA Football

Omagh CBS firepower can get them past St Patrick's, Armagh

Séamas McAleenan

Danske Bank MacCormack Cup final: Saturday 5.30pm in Athletic Grounds, Armagh: St Patrick's, Armagh v Omagh CBS

TWO years ago this group of players from St Patrick's, Armagh failed to win the final of the Danske Bank Rafferty Cup, turned over by St Malachy's, Castlewellan at the Dub.

Yet here they are unbeaten after four games in a higher ranked competition and within 60 minutes' football of claiming the Danske Bank MacCormack Cup.

How have their fortunes changed?

A major factor has been the arrival of Moy Tír na nÓg clubman Michael Conory into the school for Sixth Form studies.

His scoring returns alone have been phenomenal this season, but more importantly he, along with Justin Kearns, adds a focal point to the attack to back up the hard work further out the pitch.

That was very evident in the semi-final in MUSA last Monday with Maghera moves being broken up around the half-back or midfield area and then the ball played into vast areas of space in front of Conroy or Kearns who both could then take on their player and force the score.

But the work-rate of the rest of the team was impressive, the half-forwards chasing back to protect their defence, and also breaking at pace to support Kearns and Conroy when needed.

And there is a hunger in the team!

Beating Maghera, one of the MacRory Cup favourites, will also have brought them on in terms of confidence, something that a team that has played at a lower level needs when they start mixing it with the top teams.

Omagh CBS have been one of the top teams at MacRory level for quite some time, perennial challengers for silverware, although it is a decade now since they landed the top prize in Ulster Schools' football.

They have won five MacCormack Cup titles, doubling up in three of those seasons with the MacRory title and they again showed an appetite for the competition last Wednesday evening when they spectacularly turned around a game in which they looked to have handed the initiative to St Michael's Enniskillen for the opening 20 minutes.

The full-forward line of Sean McDonagh, Daniel Fullerton and All-star Mark Hayes delivered 5-6 from their 5-8 total and it was the goals that made the difference.

Before the first from Fullerton in the 21st minute, Enniskillen had built up a lead of 0-8 to 0-3.

Then in the second half the Omagh defence shut their opponents down to just two points.

So, on the evidence of the semi-finals, Omagh have some tweaking to do to get a consistency in their team play, while Armagh's work-rate was the same from start to finish.

If Omagh cut down the space between midfield and the Armagh forward line, it will be interesting to see how Conroy and Kearns manage when having to scrap for possession not having room to turn their defender without a second or third player to beat.

Likewise, the Armagh defence was solid against Maghera and it would be difficult to see Omagh score the four goals they have averaged over the four games to date.

An interesting pairing then for the MacCormack silverware and a great setting as the opening game to the Dr McKenna Cup final between Tyrone and Armagh.

Early comers should get a good game of football from schools from the same two counties.

My instinct says that the team that can create goals will make it over the line and Omagh having been doing just that.

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