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Comment: Why MacRory Cup success can help bring a Lurgan resurgence

By Declan Bogue

The town of Lurgan was always a hotbed of GAA teams and players, up until the last few decades.

The team of Clan na nGael that won three Ulster titles in the early '70s was a prime example. Their players were mainly taken from the streets around the Shankill estate, which gave them a feeling of a tight-knit crew.

However, players from the town largely fell out of the county panels over the last decades. In the 2002 All-Ireland winning team, only Diarmuid Marsden was from Lurgan.

In the team that played in the National League last Sunday, only Andrew Murnin at full forward as a St Paul's man, and substitute Aaron Findon of St Peter's, hail from the town.

That's why it is so heartening to see the make-up of the victorious St Ronan's team that carried off their first MacRory Cup triumph on Monday, defeating St Mary's of Magherafelt.

The panel had nine players from Antrim club Aghagallon - which is an achievement in itself - but this morning in Lurgan there are 16 young men walking around with MacRory Cup medals in their back pocket, added to the six from neighbouring clubs such as Sarsfields, Wolfe Tones and Eire Og.

That gives a serious basis for Lurgan football to take itself up into new territory.

Apart from all that, how wonderful it was to see how a new team - St Ronan's was formed only three school terms ago after an amalgamation of St Michael's, St Paul's and St Mary's - win the college competition.

A lot of that was down to the management of these players. Apart from the input of Davy Wilson and Colm Fegan, their fellow joint-manager Mickey Donnelly has been involved with top teams across Ulster such as Mayobridge, Ardboe and, currently, Ballybay.

He brought a Tyrone minor side to an All-Ireland final, but for some reason his work was not valued by those that understand little of the responsibilities involved.

Derry have managed to secure his services for their under-17s and that was a smart piece of business.

Right now, with St Mary's of Magherafelt winning their first title a year ago, the MacRory Cup looks to be wholly democratic.

Other schools have their eyes on similar progression. In time, Holy Trinity, who drew the McLarnon Cup final, will hope to have a new school to cater for 1,300 pupils around the Cookstown and mid-Ulster area. One of their aims among the riches of their coaching staff, which includes Stefan Forker, Mark Bradley, Kevin O'Boyle and Peter Canavan, is to have a team that competes at MacRory Cup level.

With such expertise, you could see this happening in the short term.

Nobody could wish all involved in schools football the very best of luck.

Belfast Telegraph

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