MacRory Cup preview: Patrician High hoping to build on recent Rannafast success

October 20, 2016

PATRICIAN High School, Carrickmacross were drawn in Group A, alongside St Mary’s, Magherafelt, St Colman’s, Newry, Omagh CBS and St Patrick’s, Cavan.

It’s an understatement to say it’s a tough group for the county Monaghan school. They can’t match their rivals’ MacRory Cup tradition or facilities – Patrician doesn’t even have it’s own pitch – but they have talented players who are determined to prove they belong in this company.

Principal Joe Duffy is part of a management team that also includes Eamon Dunne and Stephen McMahon and together they oversee fresh-faced hopefuls from Monaghan, Cavan, Louth and Meath at the modest two-storey all-boys school that currently has 560 pupils on the roll.

Monaghan clubs, including Inniskeen Grattan’s, Killanny, Dunamoyne, Corduff, Carrickmacross, Magheracloone and Aughnamullen, provide the bulk of the players with others coming from Cavan outfits like Kingscourt and Shercock and Meath Hill GAC in the Royal county.

“It’s a big ask,” Duffy admits.

“There’s a lot more involved with the MacRory Cup than there was with the McLarnon but every young fella around the place who can kick a ball wants to play – the draw has excited them all and they’re all mad to play and we had 40 lads trying out.”

A 2-11 to 1-14 draw in the opener against St Mary’s has settled the nerves in the panel – if there were any. These players are used to success and the Patrician side is built around the 2015 Rannafast Cup-winning side.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how well they did,” said Duffy.

“We always have good quality players and they played a good brand of football that people were impressed with. They narrowly missed out in the All-Ireland final against St Mary’s, Edenderry by a point in Longford and we were very disappointed for the lads.

“We lost the McLarnon semi-final by a point as well, so there was huge disappointment from losing both of those games. But the Carrick lads are quite resilient and they bounce back and we hope to make an impression this year on the basis of what we’ve learned over the past couple of years.”

Players from Corduff GAC – Monaghan minor champions in 2016 and the home of former Farney manager Seamus McEnaney – feature prominently in the Patrician side.

“The McEnaney tradition going strong,” Duffy explained.

“We have Seamus’s son Sean and his nephew Barry Kierans and we have a number of lads that were successful with Monaghan at underage level – the likes of midfielder Liam og Murray, free-scoring forward Davy Garland, Dean Connolly and goalkeeper Thomas Marren

“We have a lot of lads who have put in a hell of a shift for us who can definitely make an impression on the MacRory team.

“They are very willing and keen to play to a plan and work as a team. That would be a big part of what we do here – we try to emphasise the team ethic and application to the job at hand.

“Yes, we have a couple of individuals but they must row into what the plan is, what the purpose of the team is and what type of ball we play. We’re very much into working for each other, supporting each other and working to a common goal.”

Patrician’s most recent sojourn into MacRory was in 2003 when the reached the semi-final. But despite the leadership of future Monaghan star Stephen ‘Jinxy’ Gollogly, they couldn’t build on that breakout year.

“This year we feel we have quality throughout the team and we have youth and exuberance on our side – they’ll go in and give it their all,” said Duffy.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to stand up to the challenges ahead. It’s a stepping stone in their own careers – school football, club football and hopefully county football.

“Having exposure to what is required at the top level will benefit the lads going forward. Ulster colleges level is where it’s at – it’s where you want to be and it’s where you want to prove yourself.

“Needless to say, the lads are being told ‘get out there and do your best for the team, the school and yourself and learn from it – improve yourself as a footballer and as a person’.

“All the games will be hard. We’ll look forward to the St Pat’s, Cavan game because they’re our neighbours and some of the lads would know each other from development squads.

“St Colman’s have a massive tradition, but I suppose Omagh CBS is the one that stands out having met them at underage level over the years they’ve always been impressive.”

Duffy, a former player with the Dunamoyne club, is now involved with Aghamullen GAC’s underage teams.

With no playing pitches on campus, Patrician travel to train and play games at local clubs Carrickmacross or Corduff and have made the 20-minute journey to the grounds at Darver in county Louth. The school is currently trying to raise funds to buy some land to develop into a playing field.

“The costs of travelling to and from training and from matches are unbelievable,” said Duffy.

“We’re trying to buy some land beside the school at the moment to get a pitch and hopefully changing facilities because it’s been so difficult over the years.

“We had a gala dinner last year to kick off our fundraising campaign. We’ve been punching above our weight because we don’t have the facilities in the school to look after teams as well as we would like. It’s really the quality the young lads that has allowed us to far exceed our expectations.”

He added: “Every time we travel away we’re just in awe. There’s jealousy and there’s an elements of disappointment that we can’t be looked after – not even equally – but in any way at all.

“Any mud patch would help us out at this stage.

“We’re actively seeking a good sponsor to set us on our way this year because this is a massive achievement for us to be at MacRory level and if there’s anybody out there willing to come in and have a punt on us we’d welcome them with open arms.”

Published in The Irish News 20th October 2016