GAA Football

MacRory Cup play-off in Letterkenny today: It's been 50 years since the last MacRory tie was played there

Séamas McAleenan

Danske Bank MacRory Cup quarter-final play-offs

Saturday January 26 at 1pm in O'Donnell Park, Letterkenny: St Eunan's, Letterkenny v St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon

Saturday January 26 at 1pm in St Paul's, Lurgan: St Ronan's, Lurgan and Patrician High School, Carrickmacross

IT'S been 50 years since the last MacRory Cup tie was played in Letterkenny, the 1969 quarter-final between St Eunan's and Pobalscoil Chloich Cheannfhaola.

For the record St Eunan's won that game, but lost the semi-final to St Michael's, Enniskillen.

This afternoon they are back in O'Donnell Park, just on the edge of the town to host St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon with a quarter-final against St Patrick's, Maghera as the prize.

These teams have not met often in the MacRory Cup.

The Academy have been a constant at MacRory Cup level for more than four decades, while St Eunan's have yo-yoed between MacRory and MacLarnon.

Indeed they were in the MacLarnon Cup final last year in the Athletic Grounds, but were caught by a late surge from Holy Trinity, Cookstown who forced a replay and then won that replay in extra-time in Celtic Park.

However team manager and former Tír Chonaill All-star and All-Ireland winning forward Colm McFadden was adamant that the school should move up a grade anyway, especially as they had six of last year's starting line-out still in the school and plenty of others were in under-age Donegal Development squads.

The six that suffered the MacLarnon heartbreak are Anthony Gallagher, Cormac Finn, Shane O'Donnell, Conor O'Donnell, Padraig McGettigan and Shane McDevitt and many more took the school to a Danske Bank Treanor Cup success in 2016.

A surprise three points win over Carrickmacross on the opening day seemed to justify McFadden's optimism.

They then lost narrowly to St Patrick's Armagh, but recovered with a good win over St Paul's, Bessbrook to qualify directly for this game.

Meanwhile St Patrick's Academy, who had been in the Danske Bank Rannafast Cup final two years ago, lost ground quickly in the group through the concession of goals – nine over their three games and they ended up in a play-off.

That play-off didn't amount to much though as they easily outclassed St Mary's CBGS 7-20 to 0-7.

After getting knocked out of the MacRory pre-Christmas for the past two campaigns, it was probably a relief to make it through to January this year, while the teams that beat them in the group stages, St Colman's and Enniskillen, are strong enough contenders for the overall title.

Matthew McCusker, Lorcan Quinn, Ronan Duffin and Lorcan Kilpatrick are quite strong players while Ryan McCabe has been in great form up front and won himself an All-star jersey before Christmas.

A win for either team today would be progress on more recent campaigns, although the winner has a huge game ahead of them against St Patrick's Maghera.

A hesitant vote for the Academy to come away from O'Donnell Park with a narrow win.

The MacRory Cup midweek game between holders St Ronan's, Lurgan and Patrician High School, Carrickmacross, postponed because of the snow, is re-fixed for 1pm today in St Paul's Lurgan.

St Ronan's will have their work cut out to stay on course to retain their title.

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