MacRory Cup: Winners will fly Ulster flag
Whoever wins today’s BT MacRory Cup final between St Colman’s College, Newry and St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon will find themselves thrust into pole position to go on and claim the all-Ireland Hogan Cup (Athletic Grounds, Armagh 1.15pm).
Such has been Ulster’s dominance of the All-Ireland sphere in recent years and the quality of fare that has been offered in the MacRory Cup competition to date that it will be deemed a major surprise if the blue riband of colleges football does not once again come to rest north of the border.
Certainly Ulster Colleges Council secretary Seamus Woods for one is convinced that today’s eagerly-awaited provincial showdown will provide a significant pointer to the eventual All-Ireland champions. “We have had tremendous success from an Ulster perspective in the All-Ireland series lately and I am very confident that this trend will be maintained this year,” says a confident Wood.
“The MacRory Cup has gained considerably in status and the fact that today’s finalists St Colman’s and St Patrick’s Academy had to fend off very stiff challenges in their respective semi-finals underlines that there are a number of teams of almost equal standing in the province.”
St Colman’s were stretched to the limit by a gritty St Mary’s Magherafelt in their semi-final while the Academy had to rely on a late goal from substitute Aidan McGarrity to eventually defuse the feisty challenge of St Michael’s Enniskillen in the other semi.
In 2007 Omagh CBS won both the MacRory and Hogan Cups while St Patrick’s Academy, coached then as now by Tyrone All-Ireland winner Ciaran Gourley, repeated the feat the following year.
Then last year St Colman’s, with ex-Down ace Cathal Murray further enhancing his impressive coaching credentials, recorded the double in impressive style and have made no secret of their desire to replicate that achievement this time round.
Today’s winners will meet Dundalk Schools, an amalgamated side, in an All-Ireland semi-final showdown.
And the fact that the Dundalk outfit have already beaten a strongly-fancied St Patrick’s College Navan, coached by former Meath All-Ireland winner and current RTE GAA analyst Colm O’Rourke in the Leinster Colleges final, suggests that they will be difficult opponents for the Ulster representatives.
The emergence of the Dundalk side as a potent force at provincial level is another indication of the strength of colleges’ football in the country as a whole, according to Seamus Woods.
“There are new teams coming to the fore all the time in Ulster and elsewhere and this is a great testimony to the work of coaches and the dedication of players,” adds Woods. “Obviously there will be abundant evidence of this today at the Athletic Grounds and I have no doubt that the winners will do Ulster proud further along the line.”