Garron Tower and St Mary's fancied to reach Mageean final
Danske Bank MacNamee Cup semi-finals: St Patrick's, Maghera v St Mary's CBS, Belfast (Thursday, 2pm, Ahoghill);
St Killian’s, Garron Tower v St Louis', Ballymena (Thursday, 2pm, Glenravel)
IN THE league section of this year’s Danske Bank MacNamee Cup, two teams impressed – St Killian’s, Garron Tower and St Mary’s, Belfast – and they topped their respective groups to book places in the semi-finals.
However, both have had a three-week gap since their last game, during which time the league sections were completed and two competitive quarter-finals played.
Holders St Patrick’s, Maghera came from behind on Monday to beat Cross & Passion, Ballycastle and set up a repeat of last year’s decider with St Mary’s. Jamie Duggan and Sé Cassidy are going in search of successive medals and lead the Maghera team. Both scored heavily in their 3-11 to 3-4 win over Ballycastle – Cassidy with 0-4 and Duggan shooting 1-5. Others to show well included Raymond Dillon and Jody McDermott.
St Mary’s, however, won the group game between the teams, hitting a purple patch early in the second-half that delivered 2-4 to put the tie beyond Maghera. Paul McLaughlin is a key player in their forward line (he played in last season’s final), while his Rossa team-mates Eoin Trainor and Dara Murphy, St John’s Ciarán McShane and Daniel Murray from Lámh Dhearg are the backbone of a strong side.
A year ago, St Mary’s went into the final as slight favourites, only to be swamped by the intensity of Maghera’s game-plan. Again, they are slight favourites and, again, the Derry team could pull off a shock.
The other game is a north Antrim derby, with St Louis', Ballymena needing to dig deep on Tuesday to set up the game with St Killian’s, Garron Tower.
Ruairí McCloskey was their hero with an injury-time goal that edged out Divis schools by 1-8 to 2-3. The Loughgiel clubman usually lines out at centre half-back, but he did well as an emergency forward and may be kept there. Paddy Dougan and Pádraig McGilligan have emerged as a strong midfield pairing, while Colla McDonnell, Eoin McFerran and Callum Higgins are others who have impressed.
St Killian’s have yet to face a tight game in the competition and are favourites to reach the decider. Their players are drawn from neighbouring clubs Glenariff and Cushendall, who contested the Antrim final in the same age-group, but it is Glenarm player Ciarán Magill who captains the team from centre half-back. He and his defence have seen little action in the league games, due to the pressure exerted by Fintan McQuillan, Michael O’Boyle, Pearse McKeegan and others further up the pitch.
The derby fixture might make for a closer game than St Killian’s have had to date – but the Tower should still be looking ahead to the final next Friday evening in Belfast.