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McCarron set to play lead role again

MacLarnon Cup final

Not many players who have participated in Ulster Colleges' MacLarnon Cup football finals down through the years did so having already adorned the senior colours of their county team in competitive action.

But Derry ace Ben McCarron is very much the exception to this rule. McCarron, who will line out for Cathair Dhoire in today's decider against St Patrick's, Downpatrick at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh (11.00am) started 2019 at whirlwind pace and has maintained his momentum since then.

Given his chance in the Oak Leaf senior outfit by manager Damian McErlain against Fermanagh in the McKenna Cup back in January, the effervescent McCarron helped himself to all of his side's goals in their 3-9 to 2-8 victory and has since retained his elegant scoring touch.

It will certainly be required today against a Downpatrick side that is particularly hungry for success having flattered to deceive in the more recent past.

Yet the current line-up is not short on skill and effort. Ronan Murphy, Peter McMullan, Eoin Maginn, Ruairi O'Hare, Brandon Boyd, Tom Smyth and Niall Laverty have been very much to the fore in their team's surge into the final and can continue to wield a big influence.

While the Downpatrick school has continued to prove a conveyor for youthful talent, it has not figured that highly in the honours list but today offers an opportunity for the side to strike a further blow for the stock of the GAA in Down now that Paddy Tally's senior county side are going great guns in the league and Clonduff have just captured the All-Ireland intermediate club camogie championship title.

Cathair Derry is a team drawn from four Derry schools and will be contesting a first MacLarnon Cup final with McCarron leading from the front. Alongside him will be players of the calibre of Ryan Brown, Fergal Mortimer and Eoghan Cassidy who are particularly keen to spark their team's drive for glory.

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Major colleges' trophies have not found a resting place in Derry city too often in the past with the strength of football at this level tending to lie in the south of the county, but there are those who believe that today's decider could prove something of a watershed.

Certainly Cathair Dhoire have been making elaborate preparations for the game both on and off the field of play and the team will definitely not be lacking support at what is expected to be a throbbing Athletic Grounds.

And it's a safe bet that Damian McErlain will be taking more than a passing interest in the outcome as he continues to monitor his county's up and coming talent.

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