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Paul's and Mary's in battle for shot at St Patrick's Day glory

By Declan Bogue

St Paul's Bessbrook manager John Rafferty has applied the old Gary Player maxim of 'The harder I practise, the luckier I get' to his charges ahead of their Danske Bank MacRory Cup semi-final tonight at the Dub (throw-in 7.30pm).

The Armagh school meet St Mary's of Magherafelt for a place in the St Patrick's Day showpiece, having come through some testing times in the earlier rounds.

"Barry (Shannon, co-manager along with Rafferty) and myself are delighted for the young fellas. All the work that they put in since the league, they have got their just deserts thus far. Having a MacRory semi-final is great for the young fellas because it's great life-learning for them now, in that the harder you work, the luckier you get," said the former Armagh player.

In previous rounds, they certainly relied on a bit of luck to overcome St Mary's CBGS of Belfast. Having gone into an early seven-point lead, they dawdled and allowed the Belfast lads to go a point up approaching the end of normal time.

However, they were able to claw their way back in extra-time, sealing their win with a converted Liam Kerr penalty.

"And we rode our luck a couple of times against the Abbey CBS," added Rafferty.

"But we got away with it and we are in a semi-final," he said.

"I hope the fellas appreciate the opportunity to go out and take their place in a MacRory semi-final."

St Paul's are relative newcomers to this level of football, but it has already become special to the fabric of the school, insists Rafferty.

They have reached two finals, in 2013 - when they lost to St Pat's Maghera by a single point - and last year to the same opposition on a more convincing scoreline.

Their arrival on the scene has coincided with the return of St Mary's Belfast, giving the competition a bit of a fresh look.

"It is when you consider the vast bulk of the fellas live within six or seven miles of the school in first year," he said.

"We are fortunate enough to have a couple of fellas come to us to do their post-16 studies from other schools and we are delighted to have them.

"But it's a nice distraction from the winter, no doubt about that," he added.

Meanwhile, the Ulster O'Doherty Cup under-19 semi-final between Aquinas Belfast and St Mary's Clady ended in a draw, 1-12 each, with the replay this Friday (throw-in 1.30pm)

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