St Colman’s College, Newry will carry the mantle of favourites into tomorrow’s All-Ireland Colleges’ football Hogan Cup final against St Jarlath’s College, Tuam at Croke Park (1.45pm) but their coach Cathal Murray does not feel that this places any additional pressure on his side.
The Newry seat of learning will be seeking to land a double double tomorrow — last year they won both the MacRory and Hogan Cups and having already retained the MacRory trophy they now have their sights fixed on remaining as All Ireland champions.
“We are fortunate in that we have several players still available from last year and obviously the fact that the game is taking place at Croke Park provides an extra incentive for both ourselves and St Jarlath’s to hit peak form,” says former Down ace Murray.
St Colman’s were very impressive in winning the MacRory Cup with Caolan Mooney, Conor Gough, Ruairi Lively and the Johnstone brothers Jerome and Ryan hugely effective in their side.
Mooney’s scoring feats — he landed 2-2 in the MacRory decider against St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon before bagging 2-3 in the All-Ireland semi-final win over Colaiste Críost Rí (Cork) — mark him down as one of the most exceptional players to have graced the colleges’ scene in recent years.
The lithe wing-forward is set for a career in Australian Rules football but has his heart set on helping St Colman’s claim what would be a major triumph tomorrow.
“We were very happy to get past Colaiste Chríost Rí in the semi-final but St Jarlath’s have a tremendous tradition in the Hogan Cup.
“We know that they have a lot of very talented players and they will be very difficult opponents,” maintains Mooney.
St Jarlath’s coach Joe Burke has watched his side improve steadily this year and in Adrian Varley, Conor Cunningham, Adrian Nolan, Liam Silke, Gearoid Armstrong and skipper Ian Burke he has players who are capable of ruffling St Colman’s feathers.
Conor McNamara scored a superb goal in the All-Ireland semi-final and is a renowned poacher while the St Jarlath’s defence is a tight, cohesive unit that could well form a big barrier to St Colman’s prospects.
St Jarlath’s achieved the most recent of their 12 Hogan Cup successes in 2002 when one of their outstanding players in the final was the versatile Gary Sice who was voted man of the match when Galway shocked Armagh in Division One of the Allianz Football League last weekend.
St Colman’s are hoping that this does not prove a dubious omen for tomorrow’s contest!