Omagh CBS can provide one last flourish in a stellar season

The Omagh CBS team which started last month’s Danske Bank MacRory Cup final win over Holy Trinity, Cookstown  Picture by Philip Walsh
The Omagh CBS team which started last month’s Danske Bank MacRory Cup final win over Holy Trinity, Cookstown Picture by Philip Walsh

Masita All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Hogan Cup final Summerhill College, Sligo v Omagh CBS (today, Croke Park, 1pm)

A NOVEL pairing will contest the final of the much-coveted Hogan Cup at Croke Park on Friday when Omagh CBS and Summerhill College, Sligo go head to head.

It will be a second final appearance for each school, with Omagh CBS hoping to emulate the class of 2007 by going all the way again, while Summerhill will be aiming to create their own history and go one better than 1985, when they lost out to Coláiste Chriost Ri from Cork in the decider.

There is no doubt that both sides are here on merit and a close encounter looks to be on the cards. Omagh joint-manager Diarmuid McNulty was a key attacker on that side that went all the way 16 years ago and he just wants the players to go out and enjoy the game against opponents who he rates very highly.

“We just want these 35 boys to have memories for a lifetime, to go and enjoy it,” said McNulty.

“You are playing at Croke Park with your friends who you have played alongside for the last seven years, we will deal with everything afterwards, but for those 60 minutes just go and play on the front foot and enjoy it.

‘‘Playing in Croke Park has to fill you with excitement, it’s what these young lads would have dreamed off when they were first able to kick a ball in their own garden.

‘‘There is no point in trying to put a lid on it but we still have to rein it in a wee bit to make sure that the full focus is on the game. The training this past week has been as good as we have had this season and the boys are really clued in and focussed.

‘‘Summerhill have been involved in a number of tough games and to get over the line in all of them shows the sort of character that they have within their squad.

‘‘Having led 1-8 to 1-3 at half-time and then fallen behind 1-10 to 1-9 and be able to hit 1-2 to St Brendan’s 0-1 in the remainder of the game shows that there is a bit of grit and resilience in them.

 ‘‘We know that if we were to go a couple of points in front their heads won’t drop they will stick to their gameplan and we have got to be ready for that and make sure that we produce a 60-minute performance.”

Omagh themselves were taken to the pin of their collar in the MacRory Cup quarter-final and semi-final by St Colman’s, Newry and Patrician, Carrickmacross respectively and after recovering from a slow start in the decider they comfortably saw off fellow Tyrone side Holy Trinity, Cookstown in the end.

Last day out, in the Hogan semi-final, they really expressed themselves in Clones as they blew Naas CBS away and no doubt they would settle for a repeat performance. They have a strong and mobile defence that always look to get forward and attack with the likes of Nathan Farry, Caolan Donnelly, Tomas Haigney and Callum Daly to the fore.

Eoin Donaghy and Charlie Donnelly form a hard-working and mobile midfield pairing, while up front Ruairi McCullagh, Conor Owens, Liam Og Mossey and team captain Eoin McElholm are all capable of taking any chances that come their way.

They come up against a Summerhill side who have been tried and tested throughout their campaign and they are a side laced with quality, containing a number of players who have won minor and U20 Connacht championship medals with Sligo.

On their way to the Connacht final they had to come from behind against Mayo trio St Gerald’s of Castlebar; Rice College; and Ballinrobe Community School, before recovering from four points down in the final to secure an impressive win over Coláiste Bhaile Chláir.

In the Hogan semi-final, they won the game in a different manner as after losing a five-point interval lead they trailed going into the last 10 minutes but they showed their resolve to stick to the task at hand and come through on a 2-11 to 1-11 scoreline.

Ronan O’Hehir, Rian O’Callaghan and centre half-back James Donlon are all key defenders for the Sligo lads, with the outcome of the latter’s battle with McElholm likely to be crucial.

Dillion Walsh and Paul O’Brien will seek to give them a solid platform in the middle of the park, the former kicking three points last day out, while up front the likes of Ronan Niland, Shea O’Neill, Eli Rooney and Gavin Lynch will pose problems for the Omagh defence.

It’s a game that is expected to go right to the wire, with Omagh CBS taken to end a 16-year wait and claim a second title.