St Macartan’s optimistic they can finally make a breakthrough in the MacRory Cup

October 21, 2016

IT’S over 60 years since the MacRory Cup rested in a Monaghan school. But expectation is higher than ever that a breakthrough can be made.

Last season for the first time ever two Monaghan schools, St Macartan’s College and Patrician Carrickmacross, contested the Danske Bank Rannafast final. Patrician won it and went on to collect the MacLarnon title as well and now join the Sem in this year’s MacRory campaign.

For their part, St Macartan’s won last season’s Corn na nÓg for the first time in their history – and they also won the Rannafast title two seasons ago.

One of their MacRory coaches, Garrett Coyle, was in reflective mood ahead of their campaign.

“I’m 16 years teaching in St Macartan’s now and many, many of those years were unproductive in terms of silverware,” he said.

“So there is a great feeling in the school over the past couple of years when the boys can look into the cabinet and see the Rannafast Cup or Corn na nÓg.

“And it has given our coaches a boost as well. At the start of the year, we had a meeting about football in the school and 14 or 15 teachers came along offering to get involved in taking the teams.

“That’s a huge voluntary commitment on top of their teaching day and preparation time. It is a commitment because the after-school coaching is only part of what you sign up to – there’s fixing the matches, weekend matches, booking pitches, buses, sometimes meals etc.”

Coyle is coming off a two-year stint as county minor manager and he also sees the bigger picture.

“We have under-age development squads doing well at the moment. The U16s are in a replay of the Buncrana Cup with Derry next weekend. If they win that, it’ll be three titles in four years.

“Our Lady’s, Castleblayney won the MacLarnon two years ago.

“You have Patrician coming strong at the moment, as well as ourselves.

“Yes, the development coaches, the clubs and the schools are all working well together and bringing good players into a senior team that has won Ulster titles in the last couple of years.”

In Coyle’s early years in the school, St Macartan’s reached two MacRory finals but tasted defeat each time.

“2004 was the first time since 1956 that we reached a final and there was huge excitement in the weeks leading up to it. And there was obviously huge disappointment after it.

“I think we were more prepared for the 2007 final and that was harder to take.

“A windy day in Casement Park, we were two points up going into injury-time in a low-scoring game and then Omagh hit a monster point from about 60 metres that came off the top of the upright and went over. They got two points immediately after it.”

Despite those disappointments, Coyle still sees the pluses.

“Neil MacAdam and Kieran Hughes came through and went on to better things.

“If the schools can keep bringing players through to finals, the county really will benefit.”

Therefore on the back of a winning Rannafast Cup team and then a team that has contested a final, is there more pressure than ever to bring the MacRory Cup back after 61 years?

“I don’t think so. We in the Sem, coaches and players, will do our best to win it.

“The MacRory is such an open competition and, over the course of the next five months, anything can happen; a new team could emerge during the course of the competition – take St Ronan’s last year or St Paul’s, Bessbrook each year since they came in.

“We think that we have as good a chance as anyone.”

Seamas McAleenan  Published in The Irish News