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Hughes hails his side's fighting spirit

By Declan Bogue

Published 24/03/2016

Top man: Francis Kearney is congratulated after his goal
Top man: Francis Kearney is congratulated after his goal

Surrounded by pupils, players and parents, St Patrick's Maghera manager Paul Hughes tried to make sense of the frantic finish to his side's 2-14 to 3-10 Hogan Cup semi-final victory over Summerhill of Sligo.

"We said to the boys that pride has always had a big part of what goes on in St Patrick's," the Derrytresk clubman said.

"Pride in how you represent yourself, how you carry yourself and how you respect other people. There was a serious amount of pride required there because Summerhill - in fairness, yes they had a man sent off - but it changed the game in their favour because they upped the ante, they came at us."

Three points down with a minute left to play, it did not go unnoticed that the winning scores - a Francis Kearney penalty and a Shane McGuigan free - clipped the uprights on their way to a goal and a point respectively.

"Al Pacino quoted it right with Armagh in 2002, didn't he? Inches! It's inches, it's millimetres and it's all those wee things…" Hughes reflected, before being buried with hugs from pupils.

Returning to the interview, he was questioned if the MacRory Cup final win over St Paul's of Bessbrook a mere six days ago had drained their energy before that final heroic push.

"Psychologically, yes, we were in a bad place and we were looking tired, but then in the last couple of minutes we weren't tired," explained Hughes.

"I think it's a psychological thing. But you don't give up what Ulster Colleges have on St Patrick's Day, you just don't give it up for the sake of getting a few more days for the Hogan Cup semi-final."

St Patrick's were largely denied the huge influence of Conor Glass, apart from the final five minutes.

The young Glen man will soon be bound for a life of Hard Yakka and oval balls at Aussie Rules club Hawthorn.

Although Hughes said he was suffering from a stomach bug, the way Glass guarded and winced every time somebody came near his shoulder told a different story.

However, in the absence of Glass, another man made a hero of himself; Kearney of the Swatragh club putting himself forward to take the crucial deciding penalty.

"Conall Darragh had scored the penalty in the MacRory final and sensible us, we had just taken him off, and then we get a penalty! There is no logic in the thing," added Hughes, half-laughing, half-regretting any poor decisions on his behalf.

"But Francis was confident, Francis would have been the one that would have wanted to take the penalty. Sometimes you earn your own luck in this game in how hard you work for it. I think our boys had worked hard."

They now meet St Brendan's of Killarney in the Hogan Cup final in Croke Park on April 2.

Belfast Telegraph

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