GAA: It’s do or die now for Tyrone school teams in MacRory Cup

David Ferguson, First Trust Bank Dungannon Branch Manager, presents footballs and training gear to St Patrick's Academy Dungannon principal Fintan Donnelly and student Rhys Quinn, MacRory Cup captain, under the watchful eye of Kerry legend and AIB employee Colm Cooper during his visit to the Academy.INTT0514-151ar.
David Ferguson, First Trust Bank Dungannon Branch Manager, presents footballs and training gear to St Patrick's Academy Dungannon principal Fintan Donnelly and student Rhys Quinn, MacRory Cup captain, under the watchful eye of Kerry legend and AIB employee Colm Cooper during his visit to the Academy.INTT0514-151ar.

The hard work has been going on behind the scenes and now it’s time to put the theory into practice for the various players and managements in seats of learning across the county.

Two Tyrone schools will bid to make it through to the quarter finals of the MacRory Cup when they are involved in playoffs later this week.

It’s the first time that these playoffs will be used in the blue ribbon event in Colleges football both St.Patricks Academy Dungannon and St.Ciarans Ballygawley will be hoping to join Omagh CBS in the last eight.

The Academy start as warm favourites against St.Pats Armagh at Emyvale on Saturday at 2pm, but no doubt manager Ciaran Gourley will not be taking things for granted.

The Dungannon lads defeated St.Michaels Lurgan, St.Macartans Monaghan and St.Ciarans Ballygawley in their section, lost to Omagh CBS and St.Pauls Bessbrook and drew with St.Marys Magherafelt in their last outing when they had nothing to play for.

That saw them finish third in their table and confirmed a clash with an Armagh side who lost all five of their league games before the break.

The Tyrone lads have a number of the Tyrone minor squad of last season within their ranks such as Tiarnan Donnelly, Ruairi McGlone, Stephen McGrath, Michael Lynn, Reece Quinn and Che O’Donnell.

And they will need these players to click if they are to advance to a quarter-final meeting with either Abbey CBS or St.Pauls Bessbrook. Their biggest danger however is likely to come from Eglish’s Conor McKenna who of course was a leading light in Tyrone’s run to last season’s All Ireland Final and who is a current Colleges AllStar.

The evening before St.Ciarans Ballygawley will attempt to make the quarter finals in their debut season in the competition but they will have their work cut out against a St.Colmans Newry side who have a proud tradition in MacRory Cup football having won the title nineteen times, the game at Athletic Grounds, 7.30pm.

St.Ciarans managed two wins during their league campaign, beating St.Michaels Lurgan in their opening fixture before accounting for last season’s runners up St.Pauls Bessbrook to ensure their place in the playoffs.

They will look for big displays from the likes of Christopher Morris, Mark Kavanagh, Enda McGarrity, Padraig McAnenly, Ryan McAnespie, Ben McSorley and Jody McGlone, although the unavailability of midfielder Ronan Nugent through injury is a big blow for them.

It’s quarter-final time in the various Ulster Vocational Schools competitions and there is a packed programme of games down for decision this coming week with three Tyrone sides looking to securing last four berths.

First into action are St.Patricks College Dungannon when they face St.Marks Warrenpoint on Wednesday at the St.Pauls club in Lurgan in the U16 Arthurs Cup.

This will be the first time in twenty years that they will be competing in the Ulster arena and they will be keen to give a good account of themselves. They couldn’t have asked for a tougher assignment though in the form of the reigning champions who reached the All Ireland Final last season.

St.Patricks had to pull out all the stops to beat a fancied St.Josephs Coalisland side in the county final in a contest that required a replay.

Those two games will stand to them and they will look for big displays from Keelan Gillen, James Morgan and Darragh Morgan in defence, Sean McCaul and Naoise Martin in midfield and Christopher McNeil, Conor McKee and Dermot McCann in attack.

The action is back at the same venue on Friday when Dean MacGuirc, Carrickmore take on St.Malachys Castlewellan in the U14 McDevitt Cup quarter final.

The Dean retained their Tyrone title in emphatic style before Christmas and they will feel they can make an impact in the Ulster series.

Key players for them include Ceiran Coyle, Cormac Munroe and Eoin Mills in defence, Ciaran Cuddy and Cathaoir Gallagher in midfield and Patrick McElhatton, Thomas McCallan and Darragh Traynor up front.

On the same day East Tyrone College will have it all to do when they take on Glenties in the last eight of the Markey Cup at Convoy.