Ulster Schools GAA


Ulster Schools GAA

The Ulster Colleges Council was formally established at a meeting in the Catholic Club, English Street, Armagh on 13th January 1928. At that time, educational provision at 2nd Level was largely confined to several diocesan seminaries and a handful of schools founded by the Christian Brothers.


The playing of Gaelic Games in these institutions preceded the foundation of the Colleges Committee in 1928, but had been sporadic at best until the inauguration of an annual Gaelic match between 2 of the leading Catholic seminaries viz. St Patrick’s College, Armagh and St Macartan’s College, Monaghan in 1917. They were soon joined by St Patrick’s Cavan, St Malachy’s Belfast, St Columb’s Derry and St Colman’s Newry, and then Dr. MacRory, Bishop of Down and Connor (who later became Cardinal in Armagh) presented a trophy for an annual competition.


The MacRory Cup thus became, and remains, the most coveted prize in Ulster 2nd Level Schools competition. That original trophy was replaced in 1962, and again in February 2012, and the two former MacRory Cups now reside in the O’Fiaich Library in Armagh.


The 1930’s witnessed the affiliation of a number of Christian Brothers schools, and their inclusion prompted the inauguration of the U16 Rannafast Cup in 1938 because the Brothers’ schools, which catered mainly for boys from humble backgrounds, simply did not have the numbers or resources to compete at MacRory Cup level. The first winners were Abbey CBS. The Corn na nOg (U14) was added in 1948.

The first formal hurling competition commenced in 1963 with the presentation of the Mageean Cup which still remains the blue riband of Colleges hurling.

More competitions were added in the following decades, each of them designed to cater for different ages and levels of competition. Typical of these was the MacLarnon Cup which was first presented in 1960 for the Senior ‘B’ championship, the final of which is played annually on the 17th March as the curtain raiser to the MacRory Cup Final. This double fixture now regularly attracts over 5,000 spectators.

The years since the start of the new millennium has witnessed unprecedented growth in the number of schools affiliated to Ulster Colleges, and in the breadth and range of Colleges competitions in both codes. Colaisti Uladh currently has 53 affiliated schools which together field over 400 teams which play over 1,400 games in 38 different competitions in each school year.

These schools are representative of the entire educational spectrum, and the availability of competitions at A, B, and C Levels in each year group ensures that every school, irrespective of its size, numbers, or prowess can participate at a level at which it is comfortable and competitive. This vast tapestry of competitions and games is organised and coordinated by a voluntary committee of 19 current or former teachers.