Danske Bank Mageean Cup starts todaySeptember 18, 2017
Just two days after the heart-break of losing an All-Ireland Minor final in Croke Park, Richie Mullan and Tiernan McHugh will today take on a new challenge in a different code as St Patrick’s Maghera again begin their quest for a 13th Danske Bank Mageean Cup title.
The south Derry school won its 12th crown back in 2011 but haven’t added to the list with Cross and Passion Ballycastle and holders St Mary’s Belfast taking two titles each since and St Louis Ballymena only their second ever success just two years ago.
Maghera team coach Paul Hughes, while optimistic for the current crop, admits that the competition has become very competitive of late.
“There are probably five or six teams every year now with realistic aspirations for the title, including recent beaten finalists St Killian’s Garron Tower and An Dún. The last decade has brought that shift and it really is a very competitive arena now.”
“I suppose that this time of the year does not suit too many schools with minor and under 16 club championships going on in most counties at the moment, but in Derry here we have it in both hurling and football and, with the minor footballers getting to Croke Park on Sunday, we are running a little behind schedule and that will impact on us with midweek and weekend activity on the club scene right through the competition.”
Three more of the Derry All-Ireland squad are expected to play in the Mageean – Peadar McLaughlin, Niall McNicholl and Tiarnan Walsh while Hughes is hoping to persuade Oran McGill to also throw in his lot with the hurlers. But none of them have been at training yet.
Both Mullan and McHugh played huge parts in the Foresters’ Cup success of 18 months ago when Maghera defeated St Killian’s Garron Tower by 2-10 to 0-4; Mullan scored 1-9 and McHugh bagged the first half goal that set them on the way.
They begin their campaign today against Cross and Passion, who will feature a number of Naomh Pádraig players who have reached the county minor final as well as Ryan McFarlane from Dunloy.
CPC followed Maghera to the Foresters’ title back in April and, along with Niall McCormick, Odhran McMullan and Darren McGowan, should be strong contenders for the Mageean.
CPC’s second game is on Thursday against the amalgamation team from Armagh schools (Ard Mhacha) with Mícheál Murphy in charge.
It’s the first time Armagh have gone for Mageean action, but Mícheál was in charge of the county under 17 squad that reached the Division 3 final of the Celtic challenge during the summer. While there will be a sense of continuity with the team, it may be difficult to make an impact this year.
Completing the group are St Killian’s with current All-star Ed McQuillan, James Morgan, Paul McMullan and Francis McCurry back from last year’s team that lost the school’s first final at this level.
An Dún have reached two finals recently and they would aspire to reach the knockout stages from Group B with players such as the McCrickard cousins, Conor and Ruairí, and Ballycran’s Stuart Martin available.
Holders St Mary’s CBGS Belfast have lost a huge raft of last year’s squad and only Dominic McEnhill, Sean Wilson, Michael Napier and goalie Philip Kennedy remain to take on the new challenge.
2015 champions St Louis Ballymena still have the talented Seaan Elliott and Ryan McGarry available. Both play with Dunloy who are in the Antrim minor hurling final, while McGarry plays his football with All Saints Ballymena and they play St Mary’s Ahagallon in the minor football semi-final next week.
Completing the group is Divis Schools with players such as Bailey Graham, John Boyd, Eoin McParland and Brian Rodgers the key players for them