Brewster Park in Enniskillen is where all eyes in Castlebar will be focused tomorrow, when both St Gerald’s College, Castlebar, and Davitt College, Castlebar, go looking for a place in All Ireland finals. Gerald’s will face the MacRory Cup champions St Pat’s Maghera in their quest for a place in the Hogan Cup final at 3pm, with Davitt College taking on Holy Trinity, Cookstown, in the Vocational Schools semi-final. Both sides are in for very tough encounters with their Ulster opponents.
Maghera to test Gerald’s to the limit
Gerald’s opponents from Maghera picked up their 13th MacCroy Cup title in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on the Bank Holiday Monday just gone. They saw off the challenge of St Paul’s, Bessbrook, by the narrowest of margins on a scoreline of 2-5 to 0-10 to bridge a 10 year gap to reclaim the Ulster title. The Derry school has claimed four Hogan Cup titles in its history, the last in 2003, and are 10/11 favourites to claim this year’s title.
St Pat’s, Maghera, had goalkeeper Ciaran McCloy to thank for winning the MacRory Cup after he pulled off a top drawer save in the dying minutes to keep out Bessbrook. His side had a four point lead going into the final minutes of the game, but were being slowly reeled in by their opponents when he pulled off the save. Maghera had gone into a first half lead 2-1 to 0-3 lead thanks to goals from full forward Stephen O’Hara and centre-half back Peter Cassidy in a scrappy Ulster final.
St Gerald’s had booked their place in tomorrow’s game a week earlier with a 0-9 to 1-4 win over St Jarlath’s College, Tuam, in Ballinrobe in the Connacht final. The Castlebar school had seen off the challenge of St Muredach’s College, Ballina, and St Colman’s College, Claremorris, in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively en route to the final. Under the guidance of Daniel Forde this year, Gerald’s have been the dominant colleges’ side in the province collecting both the league and championship titles so far. This year’s win was only St Gerald’s fifth ever Connacht title, with the previous wins coming in 2010,1997, 1996, and 1929.
Tomorrow’s contest against the best that Ulster has to offer will be another step up in competition for the St Gerald’s, who will be looking towards the likes of James Durcan, Adam Murphy, Michael Plunkett, and Jake Gannon to provide their attacking impetus in their forward line. In midfield Ryan Coleman who was involved with last year’s Mayo minor set up will be looked to drive on his side alongside Eamon Regan. Both Patrick Durcan and Michael Hall in the Gerald’s half back line will pose a serious attacking threat to St Pat’s tomorrow along with being more than capable of handling themselves in their defensive duties. Full back Mark McHugh has also been an impressive performer over the championship so far and will be looked on to ensure the defenders around him are on their toes for the whole game. The Castlebar school have only made it into the Hogan Cup final once before, in 1997, when they were beaten by Ulster opposition in the final and they will go looking tomorrow to make sure they have another crack at a becoming the only the second ever Mayo school to bring the Hogan Cup back to Mayo after St Colman’s Claremorris in 1977.
All Ireland champions to ask Davitt serious questions
The defending All Ireland champions, Holy Trinity, Cookstown, are standing between Davitt College and a spot in this year’s national vocational schools showpiece in tomorrow’s first act. The Tyrone men saw off fellow county rivals St Ciaran’s Ballygawley by 1-11 to 0-8 in the Markey Cup final to book their spot in tomorrow’s game a fortnight ago. Cookstown led by 0-5 to 0-3 at the break, but pulled away in the second half with David Mulgrew’s goal near the end putting the punctuation mark on their win. Davitt College had an impressive 3-14 to 1-9 win over An Cheathrú Rua from Galway only last week in the Connacht final to book their place in tomorrow’s semi-final. That win was Davitt College’s third Connacht title in four years and they had to do it without injured captain Diarmuid O’Connor who has been sidelined for a time now with a broken leg. Full forward Connor Finnerty was their main man last week scoring 1-4 from play and corner forward Gerry Hunt hit 1-1 for the Castlebar school. Midfielder Liam Irwin will be their go to man from placed balls with the Breaffy man scoring four points, three from frees in the Connacht decider. Davitt College blitzed their Galway opponents in the opening 20 minutes of last week’s Connacht final scoring 1-6 before An Cheathrú Rua knew what happened and they’ll be hoping for a similar start tomorrow.
It promises to be a great day’s football with plenty of interest for lots of clubs in west Mayo with Castlebar Mitchels, Breaffy, Ballintubber, Parke, and Islandeady all supplying players to both schools. The first game throws in at 1.30pm with the vocational schools semi-final and the colleges game starts at 3pm.