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St Ronan's the history boys as they enjoy first class honour

MacRory Cup final: St Ronan's 1-09 St Mary's 1-07

By Declan Bogue

The MacRory Cup will spend the next year in unfamiliar surroundings once again after St Ronan's of Lurgan won the trophy for the first time against St Mary's of Magherafelt - themselves first-time champions a year ago.

St Ronan's, an amalgamation of St Michael's, St Paul's and St Mary's, are only in their third year of operation across two different sites with the third site earmarked as the location of the new school.

Under their management team of Davy Wilson, Mickey Donnelly and Colm Fegan, they have established a footballing identity for the school and will look to go further tomorrow week when they meet the legendary Pobailscoil Chorca Dhuibhne, Munster champions, who are under the guidance of Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice in the Hogan Cup semi-final.

That's all getting ahead of themselves, however, and they will enjoy this win for a while yet. It was a decision by school principal Michéle Corkey to designate Monday as a school day, leading to the exodus from Lurgan to Armagh as buses teemed with youngsters heading to the Athletic Grounds.

Wilson bubbled afterwards: "It is fantastic for the school, we are so young from the amalgamation and I suppose what we tried to do this year was to ensure that these boys set the bar high for the students that are coming after.

"I am delighted and it has demonstrated that others can do it down the line because we have some good young talent in the school."

Therefore, today is a day off. Smart thinking.

And it was smart thinking by the St Ronan's management that captured this maiden triumph. As underdogs going in, they received a bit of luck when St Mary's midfielder Tiarnach Donaghy hurt his hamstring in a routine training drill last week, which meant the Lissan man could play no part in the final, robbing them of a wrecking-ball, line-breaking midfielder, much valued against a defence like St Ronan's which sometimes employed a second sweeper.

After 40 seconds, they got the perfect start. Eoin McConville bundled his way through for a sight of goal, but was felled by a foot block, with referee Paul Faloon immediately awarding a penalty. Oisin Smyth, a talent in soccer with Dungannon Swifts, rolled it home for a goal before stretching the lead to four.

Inspired in no small measure by the forceful tackling and sallies upfield by wing-half-back Conall Devlin, St Mary's came more into things with points from Devlin himself and Liam Quinn, before Devlin was upended in the penalty area for the second penalty of the day on 24 minutes. Daniel Bradley produced an exact replica of Smyth's finish, and the holders went in at the break up by a point at 1-4 to 1-3.

The second half belonged to St Ronan's flame-haired Rioghan Meehan. Quiet in the first half, he took the ball off the shoulder in the first move of the second and kicked a point into the teeth of the not insubstantial wind.

A scoring lull of 10 minutes was broken when Tiernan Kelly was fouled to present McConville with another free - which he converted - and from that moment St Mary's couldn't grab the lead again.

Indeed, it appeared they were hanging on for a spell midway through the half when their magnificent goalkeeper Odhrán Lynch fetched a Josh Megoran shot over his own crossbar, and a minute later dived low to his right to flick away a snapshot from the same man when the ball squirted about on the floor.

St Ronan's nerves were steadied with another Meehan point and although he got a third on 49 minutes, there was more than a hint of wide about it.

The game hung in the balance. In the first half with the wind, St Ronan's had sent seven efforts wide of the post, but in the second that figure was down to one, coming in injury-time at that.

St Mary's themselves had four wides in the first half but they found the going tough even with the wind and sent five shots wide, and it is a curiosity that only their penalty arrived as a chance from the dead ball.

St Ronan's only used two subs, but Marc McAfee was on the pitch a mere two minutes when he attempted a stylish outside of the right effort that flew beautifully over the bar to give them a two-point cushion.

Once again, Devlin stepped up with a point from distance to leave the minimum in it.

But a key tackle from Adam Loughran forced a St Ronan's turnover with the ball worked up to Kelly. He was fouled, which left McConville (left) with a simple tap-over free.

St Mary's pressure yielded three 45s. On each of them, Quinn floated a well-weighted ball into the danger zone and having batted the first two over their own line, St Ronan's secured possession with the third, and in doing so their first MacRory Cup.

Deserved, dramatic and dream-like.

ST RONAN'S: L Mulholland; E McCluskey, A Mulholland, J Haddock; A McCreanor, J Lamont, J Haughey; J Lenehan, T Kelly; O Smyth, A Loughran, R Meehan; R McConville, L Monteioro, E McConville

Subs: J Megoran for R McConville (39m), M McAfee for Monteioro (51m)

ST MARY'S: O Lynch; C Doyle, G Lupari, L Óg McElhone; J Crawford, S McErlain, C Devlin; J McErlain, J McCann; A Connolly, T McAteer, R Keenan; L Quinn, C Murphy, D Bradley.

Subs: A McCluskey for R Kennan (49m), D McAteer for J McCann (53m), C O'Neill for D Bradley (56m), R Hughes for Connolly (59m)

Referee: Paul Faloon (Down)

Attendance: 5,700

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