Castleblayney and St Louis meet in MacLarnon Cup quarter-final
Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup quarter-final
Our Lady’s, Castleblayney v St Louis, Ballymena
(Friday, 4.30pm in MUSA Cookstown)
THE Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup campaign for Our Lady’s, Castleblayney began with two tough games. They drew their opener with St Malachy’s, Castlewellan, coming from behind to rescue a point, but then lost to the Derry City amalgamation Cathair Dhoire in the next outing.
That left them a hill to climb in the remaining games, but the north Monaghan side got the bit between their teeth and beat St Pius X, Magherafelt and then knocked Scoileanna Inis Eoghain off the top of the table with a shock win just before the Christmas break.
There is some good talent in the squad. Robbie Hanratty picked up a Schools’ Allstar at Christmas and he, Mark Mooney and Jason Irwin were in the Monaghan U17 team that won the Ulster title last year, while Declan Courtney was very consistent throughout the group stages.
However their progress to date has been more about the team unit and they seem to be enjoying their football as well.
St Louis, Ballymena include three of their four Allstar hurlers in their panel, with Dunloy pair Seaan Elliott and Anton McGrath their most dangerous forwards. They each have four Antrim minor hurling medals and two in football, and a Mageean Cup souvenir.
Midfielder Conor Stewart is one of a number of All Saints’ players in the team holding All-Ireland Féile medals, while wing-back James McDonald has been playing exceptionally well.
However, Ballymena’s group campaign was not impressive with losses to both St Patrick’s of Keady and Downpatrick and they come into this game very much under the radar.
In 2015, Our Lady’s edged out St Louis in a low-scoring semi-final and then surprised a strong Carrickmacross team to win the title outright 10 years after their first.
St Louis have only reached one final, which they lost to Carrickmacross; they don’t seem to do well against Monaghan teams.
Castleblayney are dangerous this year again, improving and gaining confidence. It will be a surprise if St Louis catch them out.
Meanwhile, the last of the Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup games have been deferred to Monday evening in MUSA in Cookstown with a 5pm throw-in. The teams involved are Scoileanna Inis Eoghain and St Patrick’s, Keady.
After the game, the draw will take place for the semi-finals with St Patrick’s, Downpatrick and Cathair Dhoire already through. They will be joined by the winner of this afternoon’s quarter-final.
THE Ulster Schools’ GAA Council yesterday announced arrangements for next week’s quarter-finals in the Danske Bank MacRory Cup.
The first game up will take place on Wednesday evening (February 6) in the Loup between St Patrick’s, Maghera and St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon.
The pair met in a high-scoring Rannafast Cup final at this age-group in the Athletic Grounds just over two years ago.
Maghera won that game and this season topped their MacRory group, qualifying directly into the quarter-finals, while the Academy have had to come through two qualifying games – against St Mary’s CBGS, Belfast and last Saturday in Letterkenny against St
MacRory and Hogan champions St Ronan’s, Lurgan put their titles on the line in the next game up which is an Armagh derby with St Patrick’s. It will be next Friday evening with a 7.30pm throw-in, but a venue is still to be announced. The pair met at the semi-final stage last year in the Athletic Grounds and it took a goal from Eoin McConville in injury-time to see St Ronan’s through.
The other two quarter-finals will form a double-header in Clones on Saturday, February 9.
First up at 1pm is St Michael’s, Enniskillen against Abbey CBS, Newry followed at 2.30pm by the other Newry school, St Colman’s College, against MacCormack Cup holders Omagh CBS.
St Michael’s hammered Abbey by a margin of 16 points in a group game in November, but the Newry side have vastly improved in the interim and have come through two very tough qualifiers to eliminate last year’s finalists St Mary’s, Magherafelt and St Macartan’s, Monaghan last week.
The final game is arguably the pick of the ties with St Colman’s and Omagh CBS both unbeaten this season.
Should any of the games end in a draw, there will not be extra-time and replay dates have been allocated for all the games.
The draw for the semi-finals will take place in Clones after the Omagh CBS v St Colman’s game.