The 95th edition of the Danske Bank MacRory Cup will have a record equalling 14 entries and a revamped format.
There will be three pre-Christmas league groups instead of the usual two and two teams will be eliminated before the end of the year
Last season’s Danske Bank MacLarnon and Rannafast Cup champions Patrician High Carrickmacross will step up into the premier competition for the very first time, while St Mary’s CBS Belfast are also in the mix for the first time since 2012/3.
The Glen Road school have been fortunate to be drawn in the four team Group C, where all the schools are guaranteed action in the New Year.
They are in with holders St Patrick’s Maghera, St Patrick’s Armagh and St Michael’s Enniskillen.
Patrician, on the other hand, will have a fight on their hands to survive into 2017 as they are drawn in a group with record winners St Colman’s Newry, 2015 winners St Patrick’s Cavan, Omagh CBS and St Mary’s Magherafelt.
Group B features last March’s beaten finalists St Paul’s Bessbrook, their Armagh neighbours St Ronan’s, St Patrick’s Academy, Abbey CBS and St Macartan’s.
This year four teams will qualify from the league groupings for the Danske Bank MacCormack Cup – the three group winners and the team that has the highest points total as runners-up. These four teams will also be guaranteed spots in the quarter-finals of the MacRory, while the other eight teams will have play-offs in late January to make up the other four quarter-finals.
Ulster Schools’ Chairman Jimmy Smyth, himself a MacRory and Hogan Cup winner with St Colman’s 50 years ago next season, believes that the re-vamp will lead to a very competitive pre-Christmas programme.
“There will be something to compete for in each league match and positions within each group will determine opponents in the play-offs.
“We already had a great competition with large attendances at weekend league games. I think that we will see that grow this coming autumn and feed again into the knock-out stages.”
“In general we have a really exciting year ahead with the number of schools rising to 131 under the new Ulster Schools’ banner. They will be catered for with 70 competitions in six grades of Football and four of Hurling, comprising almost 2,000 games through the school calendar year.”
Danske Bank MacRory Cup Groups 2016-7
Group A Group B Group C
Patrician High St Ronan’s, Lurgan St Patrick’s Armagh
St Mary’s Magherafelt St Paul’s Bessbrook St Michael’s Enniskillen
St Colman’s St Patrick’s Academy St Patrick’s Maghera
Omagh CBS Abbey CBS St Mary’s CBS, Belfast
St Patrick’s Cavan St Macartan’s Monaghan