GAA Football

Schools battle it out for remaining quarter-final spots in MacRory Cup play-offs

Holy Trinity Cookstown and St Patricks Academy Dungannon are both in action in the MacRory Cup play-offs over the next week Picture: Oliver McVeigh
Séamas McAleenan

OVER the next few days, four more schools will be eliminated from the Danske Bank MacRory Cup to set up quarter-final ties next weekend.

Newry is guaranteed one team in the quarters. Whether it is the Abbey or St Colman's will be decided in Páirc Esler this afternoon.

Abbey CBS go into the play-off unbeaten while St Colman's lost both their games, progressing only because they were in a group of just three teams.

Abbey finished second in their group behind St Macartan's, Monaghan with whom they drew. Both groups though were very competitive and a score either way in individual games would have altered their finishing placings significantly.

St Colman's conceded three goals in the first half to Castleblayney and eventually had to sacrifice attacking defender Callum O'Neill to a marking job. O'Neill attacked more in the Maghera game and contributed three points. His role in this game will be interesting.

Abbey captain Eoin Loughran has contributed 1-21 from their total of 2-30. How well the College curtail him and also how disciplined they are defensively will go a long way to deciding who meets Omagh CBS next week.

On Saturday, there are games in Castleblayney and Cookstown, both with 2pm throw-ins.

Last year's beaten finalists Holy Trinity Cookstown got off to a bad start in both their first two group games. It proved costly against the Academy on the first day out, but they managed to turn things around against St Mary's Magherafelt.

Four down at half-time, they outscored the Convent by 2-8 to 1-2 in the second half and finished the group with a comfortable win over Armagh.

Opponents St Patrick's Cavan were well beaten in their last two games by Enniskillen and Omagh CBS and will be coming into the game with a completely different mindset to Holy Trinity.

Assuming that they know they have to avoid a weak start in the game, last year's beaten finalists should be facing Maghera in the next round, and that would be a repeat of last year's semi-final.

Castleblayney have home advantage against Patrician High, but coming into last year's MacLarnon Cup final, they also seemed better placed to record a victory. Instead Patrician beat them and went on to the All-Ireland final.

Castleblayney played well to beat St Colman's in Páirc Esler, but opponents from inside their own county will know all about them and the danger posed by Stephen Mooney and Max Ginnity.

The two group games that Patrician lost were by single points to Abbey CBS and St Macartan's. As much as Patrician know ‘Blayney's team, Our Lady's will also know all about theirs.

Ahead of the winners are the holders St Mary's Magherafelt. Patrician are probably slight favourites to make that date.

The last of the play-off games has been delayed until Monday as a consequence of the Academy's Stewartstown players having an All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday. Key to both forward lines is Theo Lowe and he will certainly provide a focus for the Enniskillen defence.

St Patrick's Academy looked very impressive in their opening two games, against Cookstown and then Armagh. However, they were brought back to earth in the final game with St Mary's Magherafelt.

St Michael's, without Dom Corrigan at the helm for the first time in many years, struggled a little against Omagh in their opening game, but were comfortable enough in the other two group outings.

The Academy are expected to provide opposition similar to the Omagh challenge and I would expect the Fermanagh school to set up fairly compact at the back and then rely on the fast break to make it through.

How Lowe comes through Stewartstown's All-Ireland game on Saturday will impact on this tie. If Lowe is fit and focussed, the Academy should be facing St Macartan's Monaghan the following week.

Danske Bank MacRory Cup fixtures

Thursday, January 5

Abbey CBS v St Colman's Newry (Páirc Esler, 1pm)

Saturday Janaury 7

Our Lady's Castleblayney v Patrician High Carrickmacross (Castleblayney, 2pm)

Holy Trinity, Cookstown v St Patrick's Cavan (Cookstown, 2pm)

Monday January 9

St Michael's Enniskillen v St Patrick's Academy (Derrylin 2pm)