Two former county stars who have amassed considerable honours during illustrious playing careers will today provide an extra incentive for players from St Paul’s HS Bessbrook and St Patrick’s College Maghera to take their careers to the next level when they meet in the Danske Bank MacRory Cup final.
And in particular Jarlath Burns and Damian Cassidy will be hoping that their sons Fionnan and Peter can now follow in their footsteps.
Burns led Armagh to the first of the seven Ulster titles they have won since 1999 and will watch Fionnan help to underpin a sturdy St Paul’s defensive effort.
Damian’s All-Ireland honour, which was secured with Derry in 1993, offers son Peter the chance to prove that he is a chip off the old block.
Burns, whose name continues to crop up in terms of potentially landing the GAA presidency, is a vice-principal at St Paul’s, but despite his rich sporting pedigree, it is actually his former Armagh comrade-in-arms John Rafferty who calls the shots as the side’s coach.
And the effervescent Rafferty, a man noted for wearing his heart on his sleeve, believes that St Paul’s are capable of bringing to an end what has been a memorable MacRory campaign in the grand manner.
“The team has gained in confidence as we have progressed through the competition,” Rafferty said.
“But St Patrick’s have a tremendous track record and we know that they will be very difficult to beat,” he admitted.
Ciaron O’Hanlon, Jamie Cosgrove and of course the versatile Fionnan Burns are all key players in his side for today’s Athletic Grounds confrontation that offers the Maghera school the chance to exact some sweet revenge for their pre-Christmas McCormick final defeat by St Paul’s which ended up 3-5 to 0-12 to the Bessbrook pupils.
And should the south Derry outfit triumph — and in Conor Carvill, Conor Glass, Danny Tallon, James Kearney and Stephen O’Hara they certainly have players who are capable of orchestrating victory — it would mean that Damian Cassidy and son Peter would become the first father and son combination from the Maghera school to land MacRory Cup medals.
More importantly, though, a St Pat’s win would see the balance of power in the Ulster colleges’ sector returning to the Oak Leaf county — something that everyone who is connected with St Paul’s certainly don’t want to see unfolding in today’s final showdown.