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Walls wants to turn dreams into reality in MacRory Cup decider

Ronan Walls (left) is hoping St Mary's, Magherafelt can make up for their Rannafast Cup final disappointment of two years ago when they face Holy Trinity, Cookstown in the MacRory Cup final in Armagh
MICHAEL McMULLAN

RONAN Walls didn't need to say he was buzzing. His facial expression managed that all by itself.

Seated in the staffroom at St Mary's, Magherafelt's press morning, the Rossa man steps through what it is like to be part of this season's MacRory Cup final.

After dipping his toe in the experience two years ago as a fifth year and with last season binned due to Covid, he is making up for lost time.

“It is deadly,” Walls said of the atmosphere in the school as they build up to Sunday's date with Holy Trinity.

“I have dreamt of this since I was second year and the buzz in the same as it was back then.”

The memories come flooding back. The packed supporters' buses and the ‘amazing' St Patrick's Day in Armagh as the Convent saw off Newry giants St Colman's to win a first ever MacRory Cup.

In the days that followed Ronan remembers the party atmosphere. His neighbour is Odhran Lynch and Simon McErlain lives close by.

Seeing the winning team celebrate lit a fire in him.

“I aspired to be like them,” said Walls, who speaks of the local interest in the MacRory Cup and how it has ramped up since their semi-final win over Omagh.

“There wold be a big support in Magherafelt (club),” he said. “I was talking to all the previous Magherafelt boys who won it in 2017; they said to just enjoy the moment.

“All their parents were coming up to me after the game and they know what it is like to have sons on the team.”

Looking back to watching the 2017 team, Walls admits that it ‘didn't cross' his mind he'd be out on the grass at the Athletic Grounds challenging for Ulster Schools' biggest prize. But, that all changed two years ago.

“When we got so close in the Rannafast,” Walls admits, referring to their one-point final defeat to neighbours St Patrick's, Maghera.

“Ever since that, it has been on all of our minds. It was devastating. We put in so much work to get there.

“When you hear everyone after the game saying you should've won, it just hits that bit deeper. Everyone worked hard with their club and knew they'd be back.

"We knew we had a chance after getting so close before.”

Outside of football, there is a need to find the balance between training and study, with exams on the horizon and a career in accountancy among his options.

That's for another day. This week is about living the MacRory dream and trying to get his hands on a coveted winners' medal.

Another factor in their preparations this season has been losing three players to Holy Trinity.

Peter Loughran, Terry and Michael Oscar Devlin will be in the opposing camp this weekend.

While Walls admits it will be a ‘strange' angle to Sunday's decider, their absence helped freshen up the Magherafelt squad when they reconvened in September.

“A lot of players stepped up to the plate after that with the intensity they brought to training to try to push into the starting 15," he said.

“There were seven or eight lads pushing and any of them could've got the places and that really drove every training session.”

Walls describes Sunday's opponents as a ‘deadly team'.

“They have their Tyrone minors and when we saw their team, there was no surprise at them getting to the final,” he said.

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