Red High first to fly Down flag on All-Ireland stage

St Patrick's, Downpatrick celebrate their win over St Pat's, Maghera in the Danske Bank Mageean Cup final Picture: Philip Magowan/Press Eye
St Patrick's, Downpatrick celebrate their win over St Pat's, Maghera in the Danske Bank Mageean Cup final Picture: Philip Magowan/Press Eye

Masita Paddy Buggy Cup semi-final: St Patrick's, Downpatrick (Down) v St Francis', Rochestown (Cork) (tomorrow, Portarlington, 3pm)

FOR the first time ever, a Down school will represent Ulster in the Paddy Buggy Cup, the All-Ireland schools’ hurling series.

That right comes from winning the Mageean Cup and up until 1983 that right belonged to Antrim schools. Then Armagh CBS broke the mould, quickly followed by St Patrick’s, Maghera with the first of their 13 appearances, two of which were in the A competition or Croke Cup.

St Patrick’s, Downpatrick became the third school from outside Antrim to break into the elite of Ulster schools’ hurling with a 2-13 to 1-14 win over Maghera in the Danske Bank Mageean Cup final just before Christmas.

It wasn’t an impressive final performance from the Red High; the result was more important than the performance. It took them a long time to get into the game and then it was a case of lasting the pace until the final whistle.

The team from Lecale was much more impressive in the games leading into the final, the semi-final win over St Louis', Ballymena in particular. It is perhaps a good thing that they have learned to win games without producing their best performance.

As always, the Mageean Cup champions have had a long wait before this semi-final in contrast to the Munster championship that has been run off since Christmas. It was completed a fortnight ago when St Francis', Rochestown from the outskirts of Cork city defeated CBS Charleville at Páirc Uí Chaoímh.

Adam Buckley’s goal at the start of the final quarter was the catalyst for the win, Conor O’Donovan’s goal in the final few moments putting the icing on a 3-11 to 1-11 victory.

Another of the Buckley clan, William the team captain and centre-forward, landed five points and had a major influence on the result with his blistering pace taking him into scoring positions.

There are three Buckleys on the team and they hurl for St Finbarr’s, while there are four players in the defence from Blackrock; half the team coming from two of Cork’s most famous clubs. However, five players from Ballygarvan, a junior club, also started for Rochestown, who have Cork senior player Alan Cadogan in their management team.

Downpatrick have been working away however for this game. They had a weekend down in Kilkenny recently and a series of challenge games against county U20 teams on the home front.

As with a number of schools’ fixtures in recent weeks, finding a venue was a major headache for the Council. It had been hoped to play in the Dublin area, but the only venue available was Portarlington which is much more favourable to the Cork school than the Ulster champions.

It is a half a dozen years since Cross & Passion, Ballycastle collected the Paddy Buggy Cup. In the interim the Mageean winners have been competitive, but fell short by a narrow margin.

The Red High hurled with confidence and skill through the Mageean Cup and if they bring that through to the All-Ireland series the venue will be irrelevant and they will have a good chance of getting a result.

The other semi-final between Coláiste Bhaile Chláir (Galway) and Coláiste Mhuire Johnstown (Kilkenny) takes place tomorrow at 2pm.