An autumn date for the MacRory & MacLarnon finals?

April 04, 2020

THE 2020 Danske Bank MacRory and MacLarnon Cup finals will be played insists Ulster Schools’ Secretary Seamus Woods, once it is safe to do so.
St Patrick’s Maghera were due to play St Colman’s Newry in the Dankse MacRory decider on St Patrick’s Day, that game preceded by St Pius X Magherafelt’s clash with Our Lady’s and St Patrick’s Knock in the 61st MacLarnon Cup final.
Both finals were postponed as part of the lock-down following the outbreak of Covid-19.
“We remain determined that the Danske Bank MacRory Cup final will be played,” Woods declared yesterday.
“There has been a MacRory final every year since 1935 – before that it was run on a league format and we are determined that this year’s final will take place. We want that sequence maintained as we close down on our centenary year in 2024.
“We cannot be more specific at this stage, but we will use all the ingenuity at our disposal to ensure that this will happen, acting of course at all times within all relevant public health guidelines.
“It is unlikely that the finals will go ahead before the end of June, which completes the school year – but you never know. The calendar year will still have another six months to run.
“We don’t rule out having the finals in the autumn. If there is a will, we will find a way.”
However Woods also suggested that the opportunity to run the All-Ireland competitions (Ho-gan and Drummond Cups) may have passed.
“I can’t see them happening, although a couple of provincial finals were played before the shut-down. No Ulster school sets off in September to win the Hogan, they aim to win the MacRory. After that, you have the bonus of facing the winners of the other provinces.”
Secretary Woods sees no reason why the other competitions in progress before the lock-down cannot be run off to a close in the new school year.
“We have the final stages, in all grades, of the Year 9 and Year 11 football competitions, in-cluding the Danske Bank D’Alton Cup and Oisin McGrath Cups.
“With Year 10 and 12 football due to commence in the autumn term, the same panel of play-ers would be involved. What better way to prepare for the usual autumn term competitions than to finish off the remaining games in this term’s competitions.
“Hurling though doesn’t have the same sequencing and this might present a different scenar-io. But if the schools want it to happen, we will make it happen.”
The management teams of the schools involved in the MacRory final would be broadly in fa-vour of plans to complete the competition.
St Patrick’s Maghera joint-manager Paul Hughes described the situation as ‘surreal’. He didn’t rule out a September date but highlighted the need to play “when the time is right”.
“These are exceptional times and maybe an exceptional solution is called for. In the present climate, a final in the new school year looks OK.
“It could see the likes of ourselves and St Colman’s bringing boys back to play in it, boys who have moved on to university.
“But it has to be about the players and not about squeezing it out or in. Schools play these games to give the players the best experiences we can.”
Cathal Murray, from the St Colman’s management, is also in favour of getting the competi-tion completed but can see problems.
“If you told the boys now that the MacRory final would be in the first week of September, I’d say they would jump at it.
“But no one knows when the GAA will give a re-start date and you could see a whole lot of activity for these boys then squeezed into a short period of time, for club and county. In fact we could be going from nothing to too much.
“I’m sure neither Maghera nor ourselves would want to play without putting some training preparation into the game. After all we both have been preparing for the 17th March from last September.
“But it is the whole uncertainty around the situation. It would be great to play the final but we would have to look at the options when we eventually get the go-ahead to start playing again.”