Omagh CBS and St Patrick’s, Dungannon ready to battle it out for sixth MacRory Cup success

Both managers have pedigree, having won Hogan Cups as both players and managers

Fiachra Nelis of of St Patricks Academy Dungannon and Callum Daly of Omagh CBS
Up for the cup: 1st February 2024 Fiachra Nelis of of St Patricks Academy Dungannon and Callum Daly of Omagh CBS during a media day for the MacRory cup Final at Garvaghey, Tyrone. Pictures Oliver McVeigh (Oliver McVeigh)
Danske Bank MacRory Cup final Omagh CBS v St Patrick’s, Dungannon

(tomorrow, the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds, 3pm, live coverage on BBC Sport NI)

Tomorrow afternoon’s decider will take on even more significance as it is the 100th anniversary of the blue-ribbon event in Ulster schools’ football.

For the second year running it will be an all-Tyrone final and, based on the form that both holders Omagh CBS and St Patrick’s, Dungannon have shown to date it’s a clash in which the outcome is unlikely to be known until the last ball is kicked.

Both sides have earned the right to be here and it’s fair to say that both have also ridden their luck during the knock-out stages.

They are level in the roll-of-honour with five titles each and there are other similarities between them.

Ciaran Gourley and Diarmaid McNulty are the respective managers and they are part of a select band who have won the MacRory and Hogan Cups as player and as manager.

Omagh CBS will go into the game as slight favourites and are the only side in this year’s competition who have yet to taste defeat.

They topped their group with the minimum fuss, but it has been far from straight-forward for them since.

At the three-quarter mark against Our Lady’s, Castleblayney in the last eight they looked to be in complete control when leading by eight points. However, their Monaghan opponents got in for a couple of goals and the holders were relieved to hear thefinal whistle as it finished on a scoreline of 1-14to 3-7.

In the semi-final, first-half goals from Liam Óg Mossey and Mark Corcoran saw them lead by five points at the interval, but St Mary’s, Magherafelt dominated the second half with Omagh just holding out for another narrow victory, 2-7 to 0- 12.

They will want to try and make sure those collapses don’t happen again tomorrow.

Their side isbackboned by six starters from last season’s all-conquering side – Nathan Farry, Eoin Donaghy, Charlie Donnelly, Ruairi McCullagh, Mossey and team captain Callum Daly – while Niall McCarney, Brian Gallagher, Blaine Lynch and Paudie Dillon are key players as well.

At times in their campaign the Academy seem to show opposite traits to those of their opponents as they are inclined to finish strongly and that leaves this final looking even more intriguing.

After racing into a 1-3 to 0-1 lead against Carrickmacross in thequarter-finals they were forced to play second fiddle, but still found the resolve and character to come from five down with five minutes to go to force extra-time beforewinning on penalties.

They were severely tested in the semi-final as well against near neighbours St Joseph’s, Donaghmore, coming through by a single point, 1-12 to 1-11.

Captain Fiachra Nelis is unlikely to play due to injury, with Sheenan Fay also a loss.

Conall Morgan, Matthew Quinn, Conall Sheehy, Dillon O’Neill, Finn Spence, Sean Hughes and Owen Neill will all have key roles to play if they are to bridge the gap from 2009 to their last triumph.

In that final encounter, theyaccounted for Omagh and they may just do enough tomorrow to repeat that feat.