GAA Football

St Macartan's, Monaghan and St Patrick's, Cavan in MacRory Cup play-off

Séamas McAleenan

Danske Bank MacRory Cup: St Macartan’s, Monaghan v St Patrick’s, Cavan (Wednesday, Butlersbridge, 1pm)

THERE has been a number of surprise results through the course of the MacRory Cup leagues during the past seven weeks.

However, the biggest shock has been St Macartan’s Monaghan finding themselves bottom of Group B and facing a play-off with St Patrick’s, Cavan to remain in the competition.

After all, this was the group from the Sem that clinched the Rannafast Cup two seasons ago and then a second battalion of troops went as far as last season’s Rannafast decider before losing to Carrickmacross. But it again demonstrates the unpredictability of Ulster’s premier schools’ competition.

Monaghan lost by eight points to Abbey CBS in their opening game, but played a lot better in the second game against Bessbrook - although they lost that one as well by two points.

St Ronan’s were already guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals by the time they met St Macartan’s and it was no surprise that the Sem won against an experimental line-out. Their defeat last week to an Academy team was unexpected, but hinged on a fortuitous goal in the 46th minute for a narrow lead that was successfully defended for the rest of the play.

Cavan have has a similarly poor run through Group A, the bright spot being their 0-22 to 2-5 win over Carrickmacross, coming immediately after their worst performance - a 4-11 to 0-7 defeat by St Mary’s, Magherafelt at Halloween.

They were in action at the start of last week against St Colman’s and worse than the five-point defeat were the two red cards handed out during the last quarter during a period where they had come back to within a couple of points. They will probably be without those two players for this play-off and that will make life more difficult for them.

Defeat will be a big set-back for either school as they have been working extremely hard to get to the top in Schools’ competitions in general and in the MacRory in particular. This was supposed to be St Macartan’s big chance and that, in itself, may well help them produce the big performance.


Danske Bank MacRory Cup: St Patrick’s Academy v Patrician, Carrickmacross
(Wednesday, Emyvale, 1.30pm)

IT IS not a great surprise that St Patrick’s Academy and Patrician High find themselves in a MacRory Cup play-off on Wednesday.

The Academy had not been prominent through their school careers and got their campaign off to the worst possible start by going under by 3-16 to 0-5 to Abbey CBS in the very first game of the competition.

Patrician’s expectations may have been a little higher given that they collected both the Rannafast and MacLarnon Cups in the past season. Crucially though they were dipping their toe in the MacRory waters for the first time and quickly discovered that those waters were a little too hot.

In hindsight, their 2-11 to 1-14 draw with St Mary’s, Magherafelt in the opening game was a good result. Both teams had a player red-carded that day and disciplinary issues reared their head again in the following games, restricting Patrician’s ability to add to that early point.

Their last outing was over two weeks ago, a loss by 0-22 to 2-5 against St Patrick’s, Cavan, during which they only managed two points in the second-half, as against 12 from their opponents.

By contrast, the Academy produced their best football in the last two games, drawing 3-7 to 2-10 with Bessbrook and then pulling off a shock 1-10 to 0-11 win over St Macartan’s, Monaghan last Wednesday to give them arguably a better draw in the play-offs.

Scoring, though, would seem to fall mainly on the shoulders of Paul Donaghy, Mark Donnelly and Jude Campbell, but it will be a surprise if Rannfast players like Michael Conroy are not drafted into the forward line as they strive to remain in the MacRory.

Patrician have players that can score regularly in Andrew Woods, Sean McEnaney and Liam Óg Murray, but they have not really gelled in the last three games and that will worry their management.

Can they pull it off when it really matters, or will the Academy continue their recent good form? The winner will certainly get a huge boost for the knock-out stages after Christmas, while the loser will feel pretty sore for the rest of the winter.


Danske Bank MacCormack Cup final: St Ronan’s, Lurgan v Omagh CBS
(Wednesday, Queen’s Arena, 7.30pm)

AFTER three rounds of league games in the MacRory Cup, two teams were standing out with three straight wins - Omagh CBS and St Ronan’s, Lurgan.

In the final round of games, Omagh needed to defeat St Mary’s, Magherafelt to claim their place in the MacCormack Cup semi-finals and a last-eight spot in the MacRory. A 3-16 to 2-3 victory sorted that problem.

St Ronan’s, on the other hand, didn’t need to keep their winning run going and chose to experiment with their line-up. They lost to St Macartan’s, but last Friday evening were back in winning mode when they comfortably defeated St Patrick’s, Armagh 1-14 to 0-9 in the first MacCormack Cup semi-final.

Omagh pulled away in the period around half-time in their semi-final last Saturday against Abbey to set up this final in the Arena. As a new school, opened in 2015, it is St Ronan’s first senior final, while their opponents have made regular appearances in the decider and even backed up success with the MacRory Cup later in the season, the only school to achieve that feat.

This term Omagh CBS are playing really good football and only St Patrick’s Cavan with a fairly defensive structure in place managed to contain them to a 1-9 total - but still lost by five points.

When they faced teams that wanted to go toe-to-toe, they won easily with a potent forward line in Ryan McCusker, Oisín and Eoin Donnelly and PT Cunningham. At the back, players such as Eoin Byrne, Cathair Goodwin, captain Peter Óg McCartan and Eoghan Keenan have proven themselves pretty effective.

St Ronan’s lost Aidan McConville, their top-forward, to a broken collar-bone in the opening fixture; but they have powered on with solid team displays - the Monaghan game apart.

Barry McCambridge, an Ulster Schools’ All-star full-back last season, is the anchor in defence, but has also featured at midfield. Jack Haddock and the McAlindens have been consistently good at the back.

In those early games in the league, it took the forward line a while to warm to the task, but, once they got going, few defences could control the pace of Rioghan Meehan, Kevin McAlinden and Jack Lenehan.

This final should be an entertaining spectacle, with plenty of passages of fast open football, despite the confinement of the Arena pitch. Omagh, as a school, probably have more experience of the big occasion, but if St Ronan’s get the bit between their collective teeth they could well lift their first Senior Grade A title.

B Gallen, P Mullan, E Byrne, C Breen, P óg McCartan, C Goodwin, D McGuigan, E Keenan, E Donnelly, T Murray, R McCusker, A Donaghy, O Rafferty, PT Cunningham, O Donnelly.
St Ronan’s: E Mulholland, J Haddock, J McAlinden, A Mulholland, T Judge, S McAlinden, A Loughran, B McCambridge, C Turbitt, J Haughey, T Kelly, R Meehan, K McAlinden, J Lenehan.


Danske Bank McGreevey Shield final: St Patrick’s, Downptrick v St Colman’s, Newry
(Wednesday, Clonduff Park, Hilltown, 3.45pm) 

ST PATRICK'S, Downpatrick and St Colman’s, Newry have been waiting too long for this McGreevy Shield final to happen after a prolonged battle in the boardroom over an earlier game held up the competition.

Indeed, the Red High were last in action as far back as October 12, when they defeated St Patrick’s, Armagh by 5-17 to 1-3 and were almost winners as emphatic when they defeated St Columban’s, Portaferry a week earlier

Three of their players from Portaferry - Ryan O’Neill, Finn Turpin and Tom McGrattan, the latter a son of Down’s only Allstar hurler Gerard McGrattan - have been outstanding in those games. They also have a couple of good stickmen from Ballygalget - Oisín Coulter and Michael Dorrian - and Marcus Churchman and Fearghal McManus from Liatroim Fontenoys.

St Colman’s also feature a Fontenoy in their line-out - Dan Cunningham in forwards - while four of the team are going in search of their second medal, having helped the College to victory over St Patrick’s, Armagh this time last year.

Unsurprisingly, the four have had a big impact on the team. Conor King and Matthew Duffy are strong in defence, Dara Rodgers is the driving force in midfield and Shamrocks’ James Duggan the top-scorer.

St Colman’s games have ended in much closer scorelines than Downpatrick’s - but, again, the long delay since the last game makes form unpredictable. However, when St Patrick’s met St Colman’s back in June in the O’Mahony Shield final, the trophy went to East Down.

This McGreevy Shield should also head in the same direction.

St Patrick’s:
C Kinsella, R McGrath, M Churchman, O McGrattan, B Ward, R O'Neill, R Coulter, F Turpin, O Coulter, A Rogan, T McGratten, M Dorrian, C Lenihan, F McManus, T Connolly.
St Colman’s: F Brady, F Kieran, C McDonagh, C King, P óg McAvoy, C Madden, M Duffy, D Rodgers, P Cowan, M Boyd, J Duggan, C Magee, D Cunningham, E Murtagh, M Rice.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football