Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Football Allstars

April 13, 2022

THEIR fathers wore the same jerseys when they picked up national Allstar awards more than two decades ago.

Wing-half back Patrick McGurk, son of Johnny, and corner-forward Ruairí Canavan, son of Peter, are easily recognisable names in the Danske Bank Ulster schools’ Allstar football team announced yesterday by Jimmy Smyth, chairman of Ulster Schools’ GAA, and Oonagh Murtagh, Head of South Business Centre at Danske Bank UK Belfast.

Yet another member of the team is a son of an All-Ireland senior medallist, although Cormac Devlin wins his in the forward line while his father Gavin was better known as a defender in Tyrone’s successes nearly two decades ago.

However, none of the three players from the current generation enjoyed a lot of success with their schools this year.

Canavan’s St Ciaran’s, Ballygawley lost out in the group stages of the Danske Bank Markey Cup, while Devlin and St Patrick’s Academy went down in the MacRory Cup quarter-final in his native Ardboe to eventual winners St Mary’s, Magherafelt.

McGurk, who captained St Patrick’s, Maghera, lost out in the semi-finals to Holy Trinity, Cookstown, who were jointly managed by Ruairí Canavan’s father Peter.

Although beaten in the MacRory final in February, Holy Trinity captured three positions on the Allstar team, Shea Quinn at centre-forward and both midfielders, school captain Ruairí McHugh and Blaine Ryan.

As a result MacRory Cup champions St Mary’s, Magherafelt will be a little disappointed with just two awards, but both Niall O’Donnell and Conhuir Johnston had outstanding games throughout the competition for the Sky Blues.

St Patrick’s, Maghera have two defenders honoured, Patrick McGurk and Adam McGonigle whose father Barry was on the schools’ Allstar team of 1991 at midfield.

Another school picking up two awards was Dean Mag Uirc College Carrickmore, the first time ever the school has had players included in the scheme. Defenders Rónán Fox and Michael Rafferty both played in the Tyrone U17 side that lost the All-Ireland minor final to Meath in the dying minutes of an epic game in Croke Park last September.

Tyrone therefore have a total of seven players in the team, while Derry have four (two each from Maghera and Magherafelt) while there are two players from Armagh selected.

Emmet Magee from the Clann Éireann club played MacRory Cup football for St Ronan’s while Crossmaglen’s Caolán Finnegan represented St Colman’s College, Newry.

The team is completed by goalkeeper Dáire O’Shea who won the Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup in February with Patrician High, Carrickmacross and St Michael’s, Enniskillen forward Diarmaid King who has already had two seasons with the Fermanagh U20 team.

Announcing the awards yesterday Jimmy Smyth, Chairman of the Ulster Schools’ Council, congratulated the recipients and thanked sponsors Danske Bank for their continued support after two very difficult years for schools and the banking industry.

“Two years ago we were hit by something none of us could have foreseen. All schools’ GAA was suspended for 20 months, from March 2020 until November last year. Since then we have endeavoured to provide competition at all levels and we were particularly keen to get the senior competitions completed for the first time in three seasons.

“The players here today and their peers have missed out on much of what schools’ GAA is all about and it important that we honour our top under age talent.

“To achieve an Ulster Schools’ Allstar Award is to rightly earn a place their school’s and in Ulster schools’ hall of fame. These awards recognise and reward these talented players’ commitment and endeavour on the GAA field.”

The Danske Bank Allstar football and hurling teams will receive their awards at a gala dinner in the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast on Friday, April 29.

Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Football All-stars 2021-2022

1. Dáire O’Shea (Patrician High, Carrickmacross)

2. Emmet Magee (St Ronan’s, Lurgan)

3. Rónán Fox (Dean Mag Uirc College, Carrickmore)

4. Adam McGonigle (St Patrick’s, Maghera)

5. Patrick McGurk (St Patrick’s, Maghera)

6. Niall O’Donnell (St Mary’s, Magherafelt)

7. Michael Raffery (Dean Mag Uirc College, Carrickmore)

8. Ruairí McHugh (Holy Trinity, Cookstown)

9. Blaine Ryan (Holy Trinity Cookstown)

10. Cormac Devlin (St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon)

11. Shea Quinn (Holy Trinity, Cookstown)

12. Conhuir Johnston (St Mary’s, Magherafelt)

13. Ruairí Canavan (St Ciarán’s, Ballygawley)

14. Diarmaid King (St Michael’s, Enniskillen)

15. Caolán Finnegan (St Colman’s, Newry)


Published in The Irish News 13/04/2022