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MacRory Cup: St Colman’s crown on the line

By John Campbell

St Colman’s College Newry will put their reputation as Ulster’s premier football school on the line when they confront St Patrick’s Academy Dungannon in tomorrow’s BT MacRory Cup final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh (1.15pm).

Having captured the trophy last year, the Newry side went on to win the Hogan Cup (All-Ireland Colleges) and are now back in the provincial showpiece, anxious to retain their silverware.

While his team may not have been totally convincing en-route to the decider, coach Cathal Murray still believes they are capable of delivering a big performance |tomorrow.

“We were certainly stretched by St Mary’s Magherafelt in our semi-final but I thought the team showed great composure and courage to come out on top. The Academy have been going well and it should be a great contest,” says Murray.

He has eight of last year’s side available again and will be looking to players like Conor Gough, Ryan Johnstone, Jerome Johnstone, Caolan Mooney, Ruairi Lively and Niall Donnelly to provide the platform for success.

Gough can wield considerable influence at midfield while Jerome Johnstone, in particular, and Mooney are capable finishers in a side which offers an |enthusiastic work ethic.

But they will certainly be fully extended by a St Patrick’s Academy outfit which has been playing with increasing confidence |in recent games.

Coached by Tyrone All-Ireland winner Ciaran Gourley, the Academy proved their worth in beating a strong St Michael’s Enniskillen side in their semi-final, although Gourley himself admits that it took a late goal to seal that |victory.

“Aidan McGarrity came on from the substitutes’ bench and helped to get us over the line by getting a late goal,” he said.

“We were certainly relieved that he was able to hit the net. Now we are facing a St Colman’s side who will obviously be very keen to retain their trophy,” added |Gourley.

McGarrity has been troubled by injury lately but Gourley is still hopeful that he will have an input into tomorrow’s showdown.

The Academy side includes a number of players who helped Tyrone to win the All-Ireland Minor football title last year and their experience in this connection has proved a bonus during the MacRory Cup, to date.

Harry Og Conlon, who played at midfield in Tyrone’s triumph, plays in the half-forward line for the Academy, although he can serve as a third midfielder when required.

Liam Gervin, Dwayne Quinn, Ryan Devlin and Stefan Lavery are other players who can put scores on the board for the Dungannon outfit, which in recent years has acquired a notable |reputation in the MacRory Cup.

Mark McReynolds is a very capable goalkeeper while Eunan Deeney is a very cultured defender.

In overcoming St Michael’s in the last four, the Academy emphasised their tenacity and physical power — attributes which could, again, serve them well tomorrow.

Meanwhile, St Mary’s CBS Belfast will start as favourites against St Paul’s Bessbrook in the MacLarnon Cup final, which precedes the much anticipated MacRory decider.

Players to watch

Harry Og Conlon (St Pat’s, Dungannon)

It was his consistent performances for Tyrone in last year’s Ulster and All-Ireland championships that brought Og Conlon into the limelight. Since then, he has morphed into a clever playmaker whose distribution and selflessness have certainly served the Academy well in their surge into tomorrow’s MacRory Cup decider.

Versatile and strong, he not only makes scores for colleagues, but can finish crisply as well. Cool under pressure and imbued with a fiery work ethic, he can prove a key cog in the Academy machine.Limelight: Harry Og Conlon has made progress to county level

Caolan Mooney (St Colman’s College)

When St Colman’s won the double last year by landing the MacRory and Hogan Cups, Mooney proved an inspirational force in their side. Creative and enterprising, he was the fulcrum of an attack which functioned smoothly for the most part. Yet he still found time to drop back and help out his defence when the occasion demanded.

His immediate future is already mapped out as he will leave for Australia in the summer to commence his career in Rules football there. Not surprisingly, he is keen to have further MacRory and Hogan Cup medals in his possession when he does so.Down under: Caolan Mooney will head to Australia this summer

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