Outstanding Omagh CBS blow Holy Trinity away

Omagh CBS captain Eoin McElholm celebrates at the final whistle in Sunday's MacRory Cup final. Pic by Philip Walsh
Omagh CBS captain Eoin McElholm celebrates at the final whistle in Sunday's MacRory Cup final. Pic by Philip Walsh

Danske Bank MacRory Cup final: Omagh CBS 0-16 Holy Trinity, Cookstown 1-6

AFTER sixteen years, Omagh CBS would have taken a win by any means. But this was close to perfection.

Six minutes in, they’re 1-1 to 0-0 down to Holy Trinity. Ruairi McHugh, mountainous midfielder, has carried the ball hard at them four times already.

Twice he’s turned over but he also wins a free that Jack Martin points. Then Liam Lawn scythes through and keeps his head with a brilliant finish.

For almost the entire remaining 59 minutes of football that were played, Omagh were by far the better side.

They had both outstanding individuals and a structure that suited them.

When Cookstown dropped back, the maroon jerseys were in no panic to get sucked out. They built their defensive wall on their own 45 and waited for Holy Trinity to step into them. One turnover after the next after the next, all day.

Twenty turnovers to eight was the final count.

When Omagh stripped the ball they had incredible purpose about the way they attacked. Eoin McElholm, their captain, would probe from deep pockets. Conor Owens and Liam Óg Mossey made outlets of themselves, but their outstanding forward was Ruairi McCullagh.

He kicked five points in a brilliant first half, adding a sixth from a mark during the second-half purple patch that took the game completely away from John McKeever’s side.

Omagh made brilliant decisions on the ball. When the kick was on, they kicked it. Their attack was unselfish, prepared to pop it to runners. The most significant of those was Tomás Haigney, man-of-the-match from wing-back. He kicked two points.

Caolán Donnelly hurt Cookstown in the second half from the other wing too.

Tough calls were made by Diarmaid McNulty and his management. Cormac Watson was a curveball selection that they kept quiet right until throw-in. He was in midfield to try and curb Ruairi McHugh.

He did so really effectively, but was helped unquestionably by the Tyrone U20 midfielder taking a heavy knock in possession early in the game.

He kept plugging but it was obvious he wasn’t able to hit top gear.

Cookstown never managed that as a whole. Their gap from back to front was enormous. Whereas Omagh held one, sometimes two or three, forwards up, Holy Trinity dropped the entire 15 back. When they turned it over, they had no choice but to run it. Omagh’s defence, which had conceded only one goal all year until today, sized them up, hit them and took the ball back.

Cormac Devlin tried hard to influence the game in a similar role to McElholm’s at the other end, but the gaps weren’t there for the beaten back-to-back finalists to play through.

After the setback of the early goal, Omagh hit nine of the next eleven scores. Ruairi McCullagh led the charge. They began to take charge of Cookstown’s kickout and built a 0-9 to 1-3 lead having played against the breeze.

“We’ve talked a lot about dealing with setbacks and being resilient. There’s a lot to be said for our boys - they stood up when they were four points down and stuck to the process,” said Omagh boss Diarmaid McNulty.

“They didn’t play the occasion, they just played football. I’d say the last 20 minutes of the first half we played the best football we’ve played all year.”

At no point from then on did the tide look like turning. The nearest Holy Trinity came to another goal was off a couple of high balls turfed in. Jack Martin’s fisted effort was saved in the very last action of the first half, with Conor Devlin also fisting one wide at the end of the game.

He did a fair good job on Omagh captain McElholm – whose father John was St Mary’s Magherafelt’s winning manager last year – in a great battle, while Shea McCann hit a superb score into the wind and had moments, but Cookstown didn’t have the same threat among their forward line.

When McElholm scythed through to push the Christian Brothers six clear with a minute to play, it was confirmation of a result that had been coming for the previous half hour. Conor Owens added another in stoppage time.

For Holy Trinity, it was consecutive final defeats after last year’s loss to the Convent.

While they hadn’t broken any rules, much conversation in the lead-up to the final centered on whether they were bending the spirit of the law by including of a number of players who had left school after A-Levels (including some that hadn’t previously attended Holy Trinity during their previous seven years) but were re-enrolled as part-time students and eligible as it’s actually an U19 competition.

They had no complaints with the result, nor could they have had. It would have taken some performance to beat Omagh today.

Diarmaid McNulty, who was on the last Omagh team to win one and went on to win the Hogan Cup in 2007, will now take his side up against All-Ireland holders Naas CBS in two weeks’ time.

“Those boys walked through the door as first years with dreams and aspirations of winning a MacRory Cup. For 37 pupils, they’re forever a part of a MacRory Cup winning squad,” said McNulty.

“We have the monkey off our back.”


Omagh CBS: C McAneney; B McMenamin, S Kerr; C Daly; T Haigney (0-2), N Farry, Caolán Donnelly; E Donaghy, C Watson; L McCullagh, E McElholm (0-2), Charlie Donnelly (0-1); R McCullagh (0-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 mark, 0-1 45), C Owens (0-4, 0-2 frees), L Óg Mossey (0-1)

Subs: D McCallan for L McCullagh (43), N McCarney for Watson (49), C O’Hagan for Mossey (59), C McConnell for R McCullagh (61)

Holy Trinity: R Dillon; M Donnelly, B Hampsey, L Cullen; H J Cunningham; R Nelis, Conor Devlin (0-1), S McCann (0-1); R McHugh, J Martin (0-3 frees); Conan Devlin, Cormac Devlin, R Quinn (0-1 free); M McElhatton, L Lawn (1-0)

Subs: S Hughes for M Donnelly (HT), J Concannon for Nelis (43), K McGuigan for Martin (59)

Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)