ULSTER schools’ GAA has first-time winners across all three senior hurling competitions.
Dean Maguirc College, Carrickmore entered a team at senior level for the first time this year and promptly won the Danske Bank Casement Shield, beating another relatively ‘new’ school in Castleblayney College, who featured a couple of the club players from the town who had picked up the Ulster junior winners’ medals a couple of weeks earlier.
Then, last year’s shield winners Gaelcholáiste Dhoire became Casement Cup champions with a 2-11 to 0-11 victory over Aquinas Grammar, another first-time finalist, the week before Christmas.
Gaelcholáiste were only established in 2015 and have now completed a clean sweep of second-tier hurling competitions. They have already played in the top-tier competitions for the MacNamee and Leonard Cups this season, with the Foresters’ Cup to follow this term and then the Gallagher Cup in term three..
Technically, St Killian’s breakthrough in Wednesday evening’s Danske Bank Mageean Cup final is not a first for the school as their fore-runner on the Garron Tower site, St MacNissi’s College, collected the first-ever Mageean Cup in 1963-64 season, having already won five and shared two of the Senior Shield competitions that ran before the competition became know as the Mageean Cup.
Nevertheless a gap of 60 years constitutes a significant milestone.
Incidentally, their victory means that the last seven Mageean Cup competitions have been won by seven different schools.
St Killian’s lost the 2016 decider to St Mary’s CBGS, Belfast and that was followed by wins for Maghera, An Dún and Cross & Passion before Covid cancelled the 2020-21 edition.
Since lockdown, St Patrick’s, Downpatrick have collected a first title, with St Louis, Ballymena picking up their third last year.
What a shift there has been since the dominance of St Mary’s in the 60s and 70s. The advent of Maghera then created a virtual duopoly until Ballycastle’s fifth title in 2006 led into a further five titles for the north Antrim school and three All-Irelands.
Dean Maguirc College, Gaelcholáiste Dhoire and St Killian’s will all play their All-Ireland semi-finals on Saturday March 2.