Like their opponents this will be Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Knock’s first ever time to take the field in a Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup decider but it won’t be the first time that they have reached the decider.
That’s because they made it through to the 2019/20 final against St Pius X, Magherafelt, but the game was never played due to Covid. It makes this Sunday’s final even more important and their manager Joe Shields is looking forward to it.
“We are eagerly looking forward to the final especially as the only other time we got this far it was cancelled at the last minute due to Covid,” Shields said.
“We are delighted to get back after just a couple of years. We have only played in something like three or four semi finals this past 30 years so it’s a massive occasion for the payers as well as the entire school community.
The boys are buzzing ahead of the game. We just about got over the line in the semi-final against Rathmore Grammar and now we have the biggest day in the schools GAA history to look forward to.
You want the boys to go out and enjoy themselves on the day but at the same time its crucial to play the game and not the occasion. You don’t want to change too much about how you play and while obviously we are coming up against a strong side we want the boys to just embrace it and do what they can and play the football that they have been playing all year to date.”
Shields acknowledges that Abbey Vocational School will go into the decider as warm favourites but that is something that he isn’t concerned about.
“We know that we will go into the game as underdogs but that doesn’t unduly worry us,” he said.
“I have heard a lot of good things about this Abbey side who are obviously backboned by the successful Four Masters team. Its just one of those things, there has to be a favourite on the day and we are happy for them to have that tag, we have no issue going in as underdogs.
All I ever ask the boys to do is go out and give it 100 per cent and don’t come off the pitch wishing you had done this or done that, have no regrets.
“We know that they are a very good side but we like to concentrate on our own game and make sure we get things right. On the day its 15 against 15, it’s a final and we will go and try our best and if we come out on top I will be delighted.”
Knock have beaten three fellow Belfast sides in the competition so far this season with all three of them being close affairs and be believes those tests have stood to his players.
“We had two close derby games against Aquinas and St Mary’s in the group stages and both of those schools beat us last year so we were able to get our own back this time and that was important,” he said.
“In the semi final we met yet another Belfast school in Rathmore and that was very tight as well as we had only two points to spare at the final whistle. We do a lot of stuff in training based around the upcoming game when you are a point up or a point down, what are you going to do?
It does work well as when you go into competitive games boys know when to drive forward and when to hold the ball. You learn a lot from winning games, especially close ones, and hopefully our run to the final will stand to us.”