Semi-final places up for grabs in MacRory Cup clashes
Quarter-final: Omagh CBS v St Colman’s, Newry (Saturday, Scotstown, 2.30pm)
WITHIN a period of slightly more than 24 hours three weeks ago, both St Colman’s, Newry and Omagh CBS scored significant victories which set out their respective stalls for a MacRory bid.
St Colman’s were involved in a quarter-final play-off with Holy Trinity, Cookstown in Páirc Esler and were comfortable in seeing out a 4-8 to 1-10 victory.
The next day, Omagh CBS got off to blistering start to collect their sixth Danske Bank MacCormack Cup crown at the expense of St Patrick’s, Armagh in the Athletic Grounds.
There was a sting in the tail for St Colman’s in their win, with defender Peter Sweeney shown a straight red card which rules him out of this game.
That aside, St Colman’s looked comfortable enough on the ball, especially after Eamon Brown had opened the scoring for them with a goal from a sweeping move involving Rannafast winner Adam Crimmins and Cian McLoughlin.
They also finished the game with three goals – from Eoghan Byrne, Andrew Gilmore and Patrick Brooks – all involving quick thinking and sharp movement. They were, however, caught out for a soft Cookstown goal.
As well as Crimmins, Dan McCarthy, Peter McGrane and Redmond French all stepped up from the Rannafast grade, with another, Pádraig Clancy, coming in as a sub.
Omagh, on the other, hand were mightily impressive in both the MacCormack Cup semi-final and final during January.
In the semi-final, they ripped St Michael’s, Enniskillen apart with five goals for a 5-8 to 1-11 win, with the full-forward line of Sean McDonagh (2-3), Daniel Fullerton (2-3) and Mark Hayes (1-0) in lethal form.
Against St Patrick’s, Armagh in the final, McDonagh added another goal as ‘the Brothers’ hit 1-6 before Armagh could get off the mark.
This time it was the half-forward line of Eoin Montgomery, Liam Gray and McDonagh that impressed, with Gray firing over seven points in the 1-17 to 0-9 victory.
Interestingly, Omagh have won the MacCormack Cup on six occasions and twice (2005 and 2009) backed it up with MacRory success. Until St Ronan’s last year, they had been the only team to achieve that double.
Can they repeat the feat in 2019? Will St Colman’s reconstructed defence be able to cope with their prolific forward line?
Both teams are unbeaten going into the game, Omagh after five games, St Colman’s after four.
This is the stand-out game of the quarter-finals, with a top team set to bite the dust.
For the neutral spectator a draw and a replay would be the ideal result, but the scales are tipped ever so slightly in favour of Omagh.
Quarter-final: St Patrick’s, Armagh v St Ronan’s, Lurgan (Saturday, Athletic Grounds, 5pm)
AT the semi-final stage last year, St Patrick’s, Armagh were leading St Ronan’s, Lurgan three minutes into injury-time.
Eoin McConville grabbed a goal and St Ronan’s went on to win the Danske Bank MacRory and Hogan Cups for the first time.
If Armagh had held on last February, could they have gone on to the reach the same heights?
Tomorrow, the sides meet a round earlier and there will be just as many in attendance to see if the boys from Cathedral Hill can gain revenge for last year.
There is every chance that they can – although on the evidence of the recent MacCormack Cup final played at the same venue, St Patrick’s need to have Michael Conroy in action.
The Moy clubman was in outstanding form during the three league games before Christmas, running up significant totals and earning himself the Danske Bank Player of the Month award for October.
He continued that form into the MacCormack Cup semi-final against Maghera when he kicked seven points and was involved in a further 1-4 as Armagh won 1-13 to 0-9. Absent in the final against Omagh CBS, the team struggled in the forward division. Justin Kierans did well, providing an outlet for the quick ball from the midfield area, but he lacked the support he has when Conroy (left) is around.
This Armagh team was playing in B football at the lower age-groups, losing a Danske Bank Rafferty Cup final to St Malachy’s, Castlewellan two seasons ago.
They have improved immensely in the interim, most notably in work-rate and their defensive shape, although the opening period of the MacCormack Cup final exposed a few problems that Mark Harte and the rest of the management team needed to address ahead of this derby fixture.
Last year’s success has had a knock-on effect on St Ronan’s, Lurgan and, despite losing most of that successful team, they were good value for their 1-10 to 1-7 win over Patrician, Carrickmacross in the play-offs a fortnight ago.
Indeed, the winning margin should have been a lot higher as they dominated the first half, yet were only 0-6 to 0-2 ahead, with wayward shooting and wrong options in front of goal, slowing their progress.
Things looked better after 40 minutes when James McCormick slipped in for a neat finish low to the ’keeper’s left.
At 1-7 to 0-3, they should have been safe, but Carrick came back at them and the gap went down to two points at a stage, again wayward shooting letting both teams down.
On the plus side, Adam Loughram has been immense at midfield, Josh Megoran, Tiarnan Kelly and Eoin McConville hard-working and McCormick and Jack Conlon running the hard yards up front to stretch defences.
Armagh have assumed the mantle of favourites from their group-topping league form and strong showing against Maghera, but they need to rid themselves of any hang-ups from the recent defeat to Omagh if they are to survive this derby fixture.
Danske Bank MacRory Cup quarter-final: St Michael’s, Enniskillen v Abbey CBS, Newry (Saturday, Clones, 1pm)
WHEN these two teams met in a group game in November in Clones, St Michael’s romped home on a 4-14 to 0-8 scoreline, thanks to goals from Míchéal Glynn, Joe McDaid, Tom Keenan and Caolan Duffy.
The Enniskillen side went on to top a group which has, incidentally, produced half of the quarter-finalists in this year’s competition.
Abbey CBS went on to lose their third match in the group, the Newry derby, and looked in poor shape as they headed for an eliminator with last year’s beaten finalists St Mary’s, Magherafelt.
However, Abbey won that dog-fight by a single point in a low-scoring game and then a fortnight ago, took out St Macartan’s, Monaghan in Emyvale after extra-time.
If Enniskillen think they are coming up against the same type of Abbey side they met in mid-November, they have another thing coming.
They have promoted several of the team that came within a whisker of a Newry derby in the Rannafast final, most notably Ballyholland’s John McGovern, who converted the late penalty against Magherafelt and raced through the centre deep into injury-time to bring the Monaghan game to extra-time with a super point.
There was also an impressive use of the bench against St Macartan’s. Four of the five points Abbey scored in extra-time came from substitutes, with Niall Toner finding the target on four occasions after making his entrance in the 45th minute.
While Abbey’s star has risen since the teams met in November, St Michael’s confidence took a hit in the Danske Bank MacCormack Cup semi-final against Omagh CBS four weeks ago.
Things looked good after 20 minutes. Enniskillen led 0-8 to 0-3, Brandon Horan and Joe McDade were on top in midfield and Caolan Duffy and Ronan McHugh were bombing forward from the half-back line.
Then Omagh hit two goals, and although Conor Love responded with a quality strike for the Erne side, the Tyrone boys stunned them with two more goals early in the second half. Dom Corrigan’s charges have been left licking their wounds since. They definitely have lessons to learn from that defeat, but if they had just got a little luck at key moments during that game the outcome could have been different.
The five goals conceded crippled them, but tomorrow’s opponents are not exactly a goalscoring outfit. The biggest problem that the Newry side presents is a defensive system that has become more difficult to break as the season has rolled on. You have to work very hard for your scores against them.
An Abbey win would require a turnaround of at least 19 points and surely that is a bridge too far? St Michael’s won’t score 4-14 tomorrow, but they will be pleased enough if they have a couple of points to spare.