Holders Abbey face stiff cup opposition
By John Campbell
Abbey CBS, Newry, holders of both the MacRory and Hogan Cups, have been handed a difficult assignment in the quarter-finals of this year's Bank of Ireland MacRory competition, the draw for which was made this week in Belfast.
Abbey CBS, under the baton of new Antrim manager Jody Gormley, will meet the much-improved St Macartan's College, Monaghan, on February 3.
And on the same day, St Patrick's College, Armagh will meet this year's beaten finalists St Louis, Kilkeel, who are once again in the frame for glory.
The two other quarter-finals will be played on February 10, when St Colman's College, Newry will meet St Patrick's College, Maghera while St Michael's College, Enniskillen will oppose Omagh CBS.
The MacRory Cup semi-finals will be played on February 24, with the final on March 19. Normally the final is played on St Patrick's Day but because March 19 is a Bank Holiday it has been decided to stage the final on that date.
So far, the Ulster Colleges action has thrown up several stirring ties with holders Abbey CBS only claiming their place in the quarter-finals by virtue of a late play-off victory in the round robin league sector against St Mary's Magherafelt on Wednesday last.
The overall level of intensity and standard of play have been such to date that the quarter-finals hold rich promise - a fact commented upon by Colm McKenna, Bank of Ireland Head of Marketing in Northern Ireland.
"We're already enjoying a great season, having witnessed some hard-fought battles and obviously the quarter-finals will bring the intensity and competitiveness to the next level," he said.
The fact that Abbey CBS are joined by St Colman's College means that Newry will have two representatives in the last eight - indeed, there are three Down sides involved altogether given that St Louis, Kilkeel are also in the mix.
And new Down county board chairman Kevin Bell is among those who hopes to see the MacRory Cup enjoy an extended spell of residence in Mourne territory.
In the Bank of Ireland MacLarnon Cup, the quarter-finals will be played on February 3 and are as follows: Rathmore GS, Belfast v Patrician College, Carrickmacross; St Eunan's, Letterkenny v Our Lady & St Patrick's, Knock; St Michael's, Lurgan v De La Salle, Belfast or St Louis, Ballymena; St Columb's, Derry v St Pius X, Magherafelt.
The MacLarnon Cup semi-finals will be on February 17 and the final on March 19.
In the quarter-finals of the Bank of Ireland O'Doherty Cup, the matches are: Our Lady's, Castleblaney v St Mary's CBS, Belfast; Colaiste Cholchille, Ballyshannon v St Patrick's, Keady; Loreto, Coleraine v Holy Cross, Strabane; De La Salle, Belfast or St Louis, Ballymena v St Patrick's, Downpatrick.