Success has virtually become a way of life for Tyrone at all levels within the GAA in recent years so it’s hardly surprising to see the O’Neill county represented once again in tomorrow’s Ulster Colleges’ MacRory Cup final.
But instead of St Patrick’s Academy Dungannon going for what would might have been third triumph on the in the competition as had been expected it’s Omagh CBS who will be attempting to have their name inscribed on the trophy again following their last coup in 2007.
The Omagh side, backboned by current Ulster Colleges Allstars Sean Warnock, Conan Grugan and Ronan O’Neill will pit their skills against St Colman’s College Newry side at Casement Park, Belfast tomorrow in a clash that is laced with intrigue.
Under the baton of former Down player Cathal Murray and Barry Kelly, St Colman’s have revealed skill and consistency in both the league and cup this year, a vibrant team ethic and potent finishing underpinning their progress. They have already lost to Omagh CBS in the league and Murray recognises that it will take a huge effort to overturn this result in tomorrow’s eagerly-awaited showdown.
“There is a culture of success within Tyrone that has been pronounced at schools level and we know that we face a huge task tomorrow. This Omagh team contains several colleges Allstars and has been gaining in confidence as the competition has progressed,” points out Murray.
His own side were forced to surmount their quarter-final and semi-final hurdles without a substantial input from their their talisman Ross McGarry, last year’s Down Minor captain, who has been troubled by injury recently but Murray is hoping that he will have a key role tomorrow.
The influence of Warnock and Grogan in the middle third of the part has been central to Omagh’s journey into the decider while O’Neill’s silken touches up front have cemented the team’s scoring skills.
Joint coaches Noel Donnelly and Ciaran McBride, both former Tyrone stars, are clearly relishing the opportunity to thrust their side back to the top in Ulster but recognise that St Colman’s pose a major threat to their hopes.
“St Colman’s have shown character and a good deal of skill so far. They won’t be fazed by the challenge they face,” insists McBride.
It was in overcoming St Patrick’s Academy in the semi-final that St Colman’s thundered out a message of defiance that had reverberations in Omagh in particular.
They may have been cast in the role of underdogs for that game but St Colman’s rose to the occasion, their defence in which Colin Stevenson, son of former Armagh senior star Denis Stevenson was a key figure, managing to subdue the Academy attack for the most part.
This performance as much as any other this term that will send St Colman’s into battle in good heart tomorrow although they are acutely aware that Omagh CBS carried an imperious air in overcoming St Mary’s Magherafelt in the other semi-final.
And it’s this potential irresistible force meeting the immovable object that garnishes this MacRory Cup final with particular appeal.