Ciaran Gourley knows the joy of All Ireland success having pocketed three medals during his tenure to date in Mickey Harte’s Tyrone squad.
But the tenacious defender will tonight have his eyes on success at a different level when his St Patrick’s Academy Dungannon side takes on St Colman’s College Newry in the first of the BT MacRory Cup semi-finals at Casement Park, Belfast (7.30).
The Academy, hot in pursuit of a hat-trick of MacRory Cup triumphs, may have been the dominant force in the competition of late but Gourley and his fellow-coach Peter Herron are wary of the threat posed by a St Colman’s side which includes Ross McGarry, last year’s Down Minor team captain, in the pivotal full-forward position.
“This is a big test for us but we feel that we have the resources to meet the challenge. St Colman’s have been showing good form and will have gained in confidence with each outing,” said Gourley.
The Academy side is laced with skill but still have concerns over the fitness of full-back Dwayne Quinn. Last year they had just one point to spare over St Colman’s in their last four meeting (1-10 to 0-12) but with Keifer Morgan and Conor McAliskey in their side they still carry a big threat up front.
In addition to the highly talented McGarry, who came off the bench in the semi-final, St Colman’s can boast the considerable skills of Colin Stevenson, son of former Armagh defender Denis Stevenson while Chris Clarke is another key member of their side.
Joint coaches Cathal Murray, the former Down ace, and Barry Kelly feel their team has negotiated some tough hurdles but admit that tonight’s contest is a major test.
“The wide open spaces of Casement Park will favour an attacking game and we feel that both sides can offer a feast of flowing football,” says Kelly.