REIGNING U18 Ulster Vocational Schools, champions, Holy Trinity College, Cookstown, put their title on the line, when they clash with County rivals St.Ciaran’s Ballygawley, in Thursdays Markey Cup final, writes Jason Quinn.
As always with derby games, tensions will be high, but to spice things up a little in this encounter, HTC are jointly managed by two Ballygawley natives, the famous Peter Canavan and his Errigal Ciaran club mate, Adrian O’Donnell.
Both schools had fairly convincing victories in their opening ties, before a stern test for both in their semi–finals, setting them both up nicely for the decider. HTC started off with a facile 2-16 to 1-04 win, over last year’s beaten finalists, Rossas community school, from Donegal, with goals from Clonoe duo Danny McNulty and Daryll Magee. Up next in the semi- final, was Monaghan school, Ballybay, and had it not been for a first half injury time goal, again from Danny McNulty, who come on as a substitute, HTC would have found life difficult in the second half, having to play against a strong breeze, but they did enough to weather the storm and held on to eventually win, by 6 points, to keeping their dream alive of back to back Ulster titles.
St. Ciaran’s meanwhile breezed to victory over Donegal outfit, Glenties, with Sean Hackett, helping himself to a personal tally of 1.9, before accounting for Cavan outfit Virginia, with a hard fought four point win. A first half goal from Sean Murphy set them on the road, but it took a fantastic save, from keeper Paul O’Hagan in the second half, to keep his side in control. Both teams are laced with exceptionally talented players, with both sets of forwards having a keen eye for goal, so this one could possibly be decided, by the most disciplined and best organised defending team on the day.
HTC are backboned with players from last year’s successful team and that experience should stand them good stead. Michael Cassidy, Declan McClure, Ciaran McGeary and Ruari Mullan have all been in fine form for the Cookstown College to date, but they will have their work cut out for them, and will find St. Ciaran’s hotshot, Sean Hackett will take serious watching if they are to successfully defend their title.
A lot of these players will be very familiar with other, through club fixtures and been on county squads together, but for one hour come Thursday, friendships will be forgotten as will loyalty to the Ballygawley parish, for Holy Trinity’s management. This is sure to be an interesting tussle, one not to be missed, but HTC should have too much firepower to be surrendering their title, to St. Ciaran’s.