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O'Neill reveals Newry boys are fired up to follow in illustrious footsteps of past sides

By Declan Bogue

On that indefinable quality of sporting tradition, one of the most famous GAA quotes belongs to former Cork hurling trainer Jim Barry, who said his side were like mushrooms - they can come overnight.

You can also apply it to the students of St Colman's Newry. Despite this year's group showing little promise as a unit over the last six seasons, here they are in the MacRory Cup final having reached it with little panache.

Captained by Rian O'Neill - son of former Armagh player and Crossmaglen All-Ireland winning joint manager Gareth, and brother of current Armagh senior star Oisín - they have not had to look too far for inspiration.

In their first and second years at the school, St Colman's were not just winning MacRory Cups, but going on to win the All-Ireland Hogan Cups.

"When we first came into the school that was all happening and that really drove us on to try and make things happen for the school," said O'Neill.

"It mightn't have really happened during those first six years, but this year hopefully we're going to make up for that and give it a good go."

For such a young man, O'Neill has built up a wealth of experience.

Two weekends ago he was a key member of the Crossmaglen team that lost the Ulster Under-21 Club final to Glen, Maghera, and will be keen to avoid further heartbreak.

"I've a good bit of experience with the club," he acknowledged. "Hopefully I can pass on a bit of that to the other players in the team. If they want any advice they can come to me with whatever they have leading up to the game."

St Colman's and final foes St Mary's clashed pre-Christmas and the tie ended in a draw - but that cannot be taken as an accurate barometer according to O'Neill.

"We drew with them and, to be honest, they probably should have beaten us. They're a good team and we know what we're going to be up against in the final," he said.

"We know that the competition doesn't really start to get going until after Christmas, and everyone shows their full hand then, so really it will simply come down to who is the better team on the day.

"This is a good team. We've a good mixture of players from Armagh and Down and players who would have played on both Minor teams last year. We've been beaten in finals right the way through the school and that's really driving us on this year.

"We can't wait. There has been a great buzz around the school and hopefully there will be an even greater buzz come Friday."

St Colman's path to the final

Play Off

St Colman's Newry 2-12 St Patrick's Cavan 1-10

Scorers: Rian O'Neill (1-5, 3f), Cian McConville (0-2, 1f), Conor O'Neill (0-1), Ryan Garvey (0-1), Eoghan McDonnell (0-1), Aaron Gribben (0-1), Jack McCartan (1-1)

Quarter-final

St Colman's Newry 1-16 St Patrick's Armagh 1-7

Scorers: Rian O'Neill (0-9, 8f), Eoghan McDonnell (1-0), Aaron Gribben (0-3), Eoghan Byrne (0-2), Cian McConville (0-2)

Semi-Final

St Colman's Newry 0-14 St Ronan's Lurgan 0-8

Scorers: Rian O'Neill (0-7, 5f), Cian McConville (0-2, 1f), Aaron Gribben (0-2), Eoghan Byrne (0-1), Conor O'Neill (0-1), Jack McCartan (0-1)

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