Sean Hughes is eager to make the most of his last chance to win an Ulster Schools’ medal when St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon do battle with holders Omagh CBS in the Danske Bank MacRory Cup final this Sunday.
I’ts something that the Galbally teenager has been thinking about since before he walked through the doors of the school.
“It’s a dream come true to be getting the opportunity to play in a MacRory Cup final,” admits Hughes.
“I remember a few players from my own club playing in the final back in 2015 and, while I was only in P6 at the time, it was something that I wanted to always emulate to be honest. It’s the main reason why I went to the Academy, to play MacRory Cup football.”
The lowest point in his school football career came 12 months ago when losing narrowly to Holy Trinity, Cookstown in the semi-final, but that defeat, as well as the fact that nobody really fancied them to do well this season, acted as extra motivation for the group.
“Losing out in the semi-final to Holy Trinity last year was a big blow and the feeling at the end of the game is something that I don’t want to experience again,” he said.
“It is something that we have used to drive us on this time around with Mr Gourley using that as extra motivation this season.
“Outside the group there was nobody that really fancied us this year. Within the school all the eyes were on the fifth year side who recently won the Rannafast Cup having previously won the Oisin McGrath and Corn na Óg titles as well and we used that to spur us on as well.
We knew that we were good enough to do something this year and the way that we came from behind late on to beat a fancied St Mary’s, Magherafelt team in our first group game did wonders for our confidence.”
The Academy topped their group and haven’t looked back since, although they have been taken to the well again in their last two games against Carrickmacross and Donaghmore respectively. Hughes is well aware that they will have to be at their best if they are to dethrone Omagh.
“I didn’t have the best game myself that day (Carrickmacross) but the lads all dug deep to somehow get us over the line when we looked to be heading out,” he said.
“It was an unbelievable feeling to come through that game on penalties and that set us up for Donaghmore. It was strange playing against clubmates and I felt sorry for them losing by just a point, but at the end of the day I had that feeling last year. They will go again and come back stronger.
We know all about Omagh and how tough they are going to be. I played county minor football with Ruairi (McCullagh) and Callum (Daly) two years ago and am well aware of how good they are and the quality that they have.
“They will probably go in as favourites, but we are confident in our own ability.
“It’s a big challenge ahead of us but we know that if we play to our capabilities we can beat them.”