Epic quarter-final tussle could help Omagh edge MacRory Cup semi-final with St Mary's, Magherafelt
Danske Bank MacRory Cup semi-final: St Mary’s, Magherafelt v Omagh CBS (tonight, Athletic Grounds, live on Ulster GAA TV, 7.30pm)
ONE of the two teams that have been showing the most potential in this season’s Danske Bank MacRory Cup champions will bite the dust tonight in Armagh.
Omagh CBS with their flotilla of Tyrone minors were up there as one of the favourites before a ball was kicked. St Mary’s, Magherafelt had contested the equivalent Danske Bank Rannafast Cup title towards the end of 2019 and lost by a late injury-time point to St Patrick’s, Maghera. They also have a strong panel and results started to confirm their status as up there with the best.
Magherafelt took teams apart in the group stages and then had the flag from St Patrick’s Academy lowered before half-time in Ardboe nearly a fortnight ago.
They played attractive football that day, able to break from defence at pace and then break the tackle to get into the scoring area. A tally of 1-17 from open play was impressive and their other goal came from a penalty after Niall O’Donnell was taken down with the goal at his mercy.
Ryan McEldowney and Ruairí Forbes impressed on their runs from deep with six points between them while up front the goal-scorers Conhuir Johnston and Niall O’Donnell looked very comfortable in possession. But will either of them get the same space again as they did against the Academy’s defence?
While Omagh CBS drew with St Patrick’s Cavan in their group, they had already qualified for the knock-out stages and did not have to get anything from the game.
St Colman’s, Newry also drew with them in the quarter-finals. This time it was different. This was a hard-fought championship game where they had to battle to remain in the title-race. Omagh were tested and came through albeit with the help of an extra 20 minutes.
The Newry tactic of pressing the kick-outs troubled Omagh in ordinary time and they struggled to get any fluency into their movement. However opportunities presented themselves near the end and a few wayward shots might well have saved them the extra effort.
St Colman’s however had thrown everything at them and simply could not last the pace in extra time as Omagh pulled clear to win by seven points.
One of those points came from Eoin McElholm, the Loughmacrory teenager helping his team set up an interesting family duel against his father John who, along with Kevin Brady, forms the management team of St Mary’s Magherafelt.
McElholm the younger is just one of the exciting attacking options available to Omagh this year. Oisin Gormley, Conor Owens, Conor McGillion and Patrick McCann are some of the others that could puncture the older McElholm’s championship aspirations.
This semi-final has the potential to be a brilliant game and should draw a big crowd to the Athletic Grounds. However it is likely to pan out more like the tense tactical battle that was the Omagh v St Colman’s quarter-final than the free-flowing attacking football of the Convent v the Academy.
In that respect Omagh’s draw and extra-time burst will have been better preparation. But there should not be much between the sides at the end.