Hurling & Camogie

Seamus McCamphill and St Louis, Ballymena focus on Mageean Cup

St Louis, Ballymena celebrate Mageean Cup final victory over St Patrick's, Maghera in 2015. It was the school's second victory in the competition after their first came in 1988        Picture: John Ilwaine
St Louis, Ballymena celebrate Mageean Cup final victory over St Patrick's, Maghera in 2015. It was the school's second victory in the competition after their first came in 1988 Picture: John Ilwaine

SÉAMUS McCamphill occupies an elevated podium among those associated with Ulster schools’ senior hurling.

Away back in 1962-63 he won his third senior medal in the purple and gold of St MacNissi’s Garron Tower. He was also the captain of that team that was the last to officially hold the Senior Shield that was presented for 11 years before the Dr Mageean Cup took its place in the 1963-64 season.

Those successes for the teenage McCamphill didn’t end his association with the competition.

Around a decade later, St Louis Convent Ballymena became co-educational and McCamphill arrived a few years later to usher in the first teams from the school to compete in Ulster Colleges’ hurling competitions. McCamphill also served as hurling co-ordinator on Ulster Colleges’ Council and refereed more than a dozen Mageean finals through to the mid-1990s.

By the 1982-83 season he, and his assistant Alec Connolly, had enough boys in the senior school to enter a team in the Mageean Cup.

Their second year in the competition (1983-84) saw them reach the “final” for the first time – except it wasn’t really a final. Up until that year, the competition was a round-robin league with the winner taking the Mageean Cup and representing Ulster at All-Ireland level.

That season, it just happened that the two teams involved in the final group game were unbeaten and so the meeting of St Patrick’s Maghera and St Louis Ballymena in Bellaghy on Saturday 29th October served as a “final”. It was also the last time two teams that had never won the competition met to decide the destination of the Cup.

Maghera won that game by 4-10 to 2-6 with Damian Cassidy, yes that Damian Cassidy, scoring three goals and three points. Ten years later five of the Maghera starting team would line out for Derry in their All-Ireland senior football success of 1993 – Séamus and Henry Downey, Cassidy, Johnny McGurk the captain and Enda Gormley.

Two more, Colm McGurk and Dermot McNicholl, would be on the Derry subs’ bench in Croke Park. McNicholl had actually played in the 3-9 to 2-5 win over St Mary’s CBS in the round before the St Louis game in the absence of Johnny McGurk – but couldn’t play in the Mageean final as he was featuring for Derry senior footballers in the National League that weekend!

The Bellaghy line-outs read:

St Patrick’s : Séamus Downey, Leonard Donnelly, Peter McGrellis, Cathal Donnelly, Seamus O’Neill, Colm McGurk, Don Mulholland 0-2, Johnny McGurk capt. 1-0, Enda Gormley, Henry Downey 0-2, Fergal Hurley 0-1, Niall Mullan 0-2, Finbar Diamond, Damian Cassidy 3-3, Benny O’Hagan.

Subs : Martin McKenna for B O’Hagan, Mark Cassidy for F Diamond, Patrick Cassidy, Colm McElwee, Sean Regan, Dominic McAtamney, Patrick McGrellis, Gerard McGillion, Dermot McNicholl.

St Louis : Declan Allen, Niall McCamphill, Paul Mullan, Malachy Martin, Oliver McCoy, Sean McCormick, Damian McFerran, Fergal McCamphill, Kieran McNew, Dan Mullaghan, Declan McLaughlin 0-4, Nigel Elliott 1-1, Aidan McCollam, Seamus McKillop 1-1, Colin Elliott.

Five years later there was better news from the Kintullagh boys as they came from left side to break a sequence of Maghera/St Mary’s CBGS wins that would last for more than a decade.

There has never been a more emphatic first-time winner; they beat St Mary’s Belfast in Glenariffe by 7-11 to 1-0 with significant contributions from brothers Brian (0-5) and Niall Gillan (2-0). 36 years earlier their father Dan and his brother Tom had been scoring stars when St MacNissi’s Garron Tower won their first ever title.

Corner back Adrian Quinn returned to his alma mater as a teacher, coaching teams in several codes while captain Declan Heggarty and forward Julian McGaile had more than a passing interest in last week’s Mageean Cup semi-finals.

Declan’s son Tiernan almost de-railed Garron Tower’s bid for a place in the final with a first half goal for Cross & Passion, while Julian’s son Conor was in the Maghera forward line that tried to prevent St Louis reaching their fifth final.

Another eight years passed before St Louis Ballymena appeared in their third final. The 1996 team was captained by future Antrim senior star Conor Cunning, but they were well beaten by St Mary’s CBGS (3-13 to 0-7). The Glen Road school went on to win five titles in succession.

The wait for the next Mageean Cup final appearance took a while longer. There was plenty of semi-final heart-ache over the 19 seasons that followed Cunning’s team and even a spell in the Casement Cup before St Louis re-emerged to take a second title.

They won the Casement Cup in 2014 with a young squad and went on the following year to lift the Mageean.

It was a power-packed side, many of whom would soon become familiar names in Dunloy and Antrim teams. The presence of Ryan Elliott and Ryan McGarry, backed up by the scoring power of Keelan Molloy, Conal “Coby” Cunning, James McNaughton and Seaan Elliott was simply too much for St Mary’s CBGS at the Dub and the Mageean Cup returned to the Cullybackey Road for the first time in 27 years.

Since that historic second success there have been several campaigns ended by St Patrick’s Maghera at the semi-final stage. Last week St Louis powered away from Maghera to win their semi-final by 1-22 to 2-9 and there are high hopes that the Mageean will make a third visit to Ballymena late on Friday evening.

St Louis winning teams

1988 : St Louis 7-11 St Mary’s CBGS Belfast 1-0

St Louis : Gerald McGrath, Adrian Quinn, Declan Heggarty capt, Trevor McKeown, Conor Connolly, Kevin McCann (0-2), Dermot Fyfe, Tony McAuley, Ciarán Kearney, Kieran Quigley, James McMullan, Brian Gillan (0-5), Garry McCollam (5-4), Julian McGaile, Niall Gillan (2-0).

Subs used : Neil McCann, Gary O’Neill, Paddy Hamill, Ciaran Richmond and Gerard Kelly

2015: St Louis Ballymena 2-16 St Mary’s CBS 1-9

St Louis : Ryan Elliott, Sean McKinley, Daniel Martin, Conor Kinsella, Ciaran Rice, Sean Duffin (0-1 free), Ryan McGarry, Cathal McMullan capt., Eoin O’Neill (0-1), Keelan Molloy (0-3), Conal Cunning (1-2), Ciaran Elliott (1-0), James McNaughton (0-8 frees), Seaan Elliott (0-1), Ronan Graham.

Subs: Michael O’Connell for R Graham (37), Patrick Graffin for S McKinley (52), Declan Mallon, Tiernan Carey, Anton McGrath, Terrance Diamond, Eamon Fyfe, Neil Shannon, Conor Carey, Shaun McFadden, Brian McNaughton, Brendan McDonnell, Ciaran Neeson and Matthew McCaw.