St Paul's, Bessbrook and St Mary's, Magherafelt eye MacRory Cup final spot

Adam Connolly of St Mary's and Conor Clarke of St Paul's during the drawn encounter between the sides Picture by Declan Roughan
Adam Connolly of St Mary's and Conor Clarke of St Paul's during the drawn encounter between the sides Picture by Declan Roughan

WHATEVER the outcome of the MacRory Cup semi-final replay at the Athletic Grounds, the drawn game between St Paul’s, Bessbrook and St Mary’s, Magherafelt will live long in the memory.

A night of dreadful weather was brightened considerably by two teams who produced a thrilling 1-12 apiece draw.

However, as an indication as to which of the two will come through tonight’s replay as final opponents for St Colman’s, Newry, the drawn game raised more questions than answers.

St Paul’s seemed to be in command in the opening period and led by four points after 20 minutes, yet were trailing by two points at


The roles were reversed in the second half with St Mary’s putting themselves in a winning position with a five-point lead after 50 minutes, only for Bessbrook to come back and snatch a draw.

If supporters wanted to look back at what might have been, Magherafelt will feel they should have done better than hit the post from a close-in 15-metre free early in those final 10 minutes, or Bessbrook’s Liam Kerr might have got a better return from a late penalty than a point.

Both teams did, however, raise their games significantly from the previous round and a similar improvement for one of them would be enough to see either school into their third final.

Can Magherafelt improve? Probably. Declan Cassidy, their star player against Omagh CBS in the quarter-final wasn’t as effective last time out, a credit no doubt to Bessbrook doing their homework.

The south Derry team also wasted more than one free from favourable positions – and their defence has not conceded 1-12 in their other two games.

St Paul’s can also improve. They struggled with midfield for most of the game, an area in which they did well in previous rounds – and they will question how they let their control of the tie slip in the 10 minutes before half-time.

But the potential match-winners for each team, Shea Loye and Kevin Small, delivered in both general play and from frees.

There also seemed to be more of a scoring threat apart from Small developing up front for St Mary’s, while Liam Kerr looked to be more in a play-making role for St Paul’s than the scoring support act he offered in previous rounds.

It is probably more difficult to predict a winner now than it was before the drawn game.

The team that can make their period of dominance in the second half last longest should start preparing for St Patrick’s Day.