MacRory Cup: Omagh CBS primed for final push
Success tends to come in spurts for the famed south Derry football nursery of St Pat's, Maghera. They are preparing to defend both MacRory Cup and Hogan Cup titles at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh today (1.15pm) but they will have to face an Omagh CBS team who quite simply refuse to be beaten in this years' competition.
Their campaign has been characterised by a frantic week in which they went to the well three times. They had sat for six weeks before they met St Colman's of Newry in Clones, a match that finished a draw.
The midweek replay in Emyvale produced everything you could expect in a schools match. Omagh spurned a chance to win it in normal time and were one point ahead with 30 seconds of extra-time left. Colman's broke up the field to win a penalty, but it was saved.
Their semi-final was that Saturday against St Pat's, Dungannon, and momentum carried them over the line.
Omagh's manager is Kieran Donnelly, the former Fermanagh footballer who has been Peter Canavan's team trainer in spells at Errigal Ciaran, Fermanagh and now Cavan Gaels.
However, while the Cavan town side are preparing for the beginning of their domestic league, Donnelly's attentions have been concentrated on his school team.
"We have had to work very hard to get to the final. It's been an extremely competitive MacRory Cup, one of the most competitive I have witnessed in a long time," Donnelly said.
"The lads deserve their day in the final, they have had to work and show a lot of character to get there. It's fitting reward that we are there on St Patrick's Day."
As a player, Donnelly never got to feature in the showpiece for his school St Michael's, Enniskillen, but was part of the Omagh management team that won in 2005.
He is in an ideal position to let his players know that they have chance to seize their opportunity.
"I suppose when you were at school you always dreamed of playing in a MacRory final, it was the big occasion. Now that I am managing it is a great experience," he said.
"It's an unique situation, different from club football to an extent because lads are spending every second with each other, they are very close. To win those tight games to get there has added to the whole spectacle and given us a gelling together."
The MacRory final will be preceded by the McLarnon Cup final at the same venue, with a throw-in of 11am, between two Donegal colleges – Coláistí Inis Eoghain and St Eunan's, Letterkenny.