MacRory memories: Centenary celebrations return to Armagh

November 04, 2023

MacRory memories: Centenary celebrations return to Armagh where first champions were crowned.


A record 16 schools from seven Ulster counties, will contest the centenary MacRory Cup competition for 2023/24 which gets underway this month. Teams have been drawn in groups of four and will play three league games in term one with the knockout stages in January leading to the centenary final Sunday, February 11.

How very different was the very first MacRory in this same week in November 1923. Then only one group of three colleges participated St Patrick’s College, Armagh, St Macartan’s College, Monaghan and St Malachy’s College, Belfast.

Matches were played on a home and away league basis with the competition scheduled for completion in April 1924.

The first match rekindled memories of the age-old clash between the Armagh and Monaghan college sides and took place on Wednesday, November 21, 1923.

Sandy Hill (Armagh Colllege pitch) was the venue and the result went the way of the home team in a 3-3 to 2-2 success.

Reports of this first MacRory encounter scarcely exist beyond indicating the outcome. A glance at the results table shows that all matches in the competition were closely-fought affairs.

On December 8, Macartan’s edged out Malachy’s by a single point. Things were no different on February 6, 1924 when the Belfast side, on their home patch, lost by the minimum to Armagh. Very different was the away fixture against the same opposition 14 days later when they suffered the biggest defeat of the competition.

The eventual ownership of the cup for this inaugural 1923-1924 season, came down to the Monaghan v Armagh clash at S Macartan’s grounds on Tuesday, March 18, 1924.

Though the competition was being run as a league, this date marks the first MacRory Cup final.

Malachy’s were out of the running. It was somewhat appropriate that a lad named McRory got Armagh’s first goal. Callan got the second but a Monaghan fight back yielded two points from the boot of Clancy.

Leading 2-1 to 0-2 at the interval Monaghan came out and laid siege to the Armagh goal. But stout resistance from O’Riordan, Donnelly and McKay limited the opposition’s scoring ability.

Malone was Armagh’s main man at midfield while Mackle added to their total with a well-taken goal. Clancy, Monaghan’s best attacker, fired an equally good goal. The final tally of 2-4 to 1-3 for the ‘away side,’ meant that the MacRory Cup had been won for the first time by St. Patrick’s College, Armagh.

Described as ‘a thrilling game’ the Armagh reporter, in a mood of triumphalism, commented that ‘the representatives of the Primatial City were retaining possession of the much-coveted trophy for another twelve months.’

With tongue in cheek, he could not resist a bit of fun at the expense of the Monaghan boys, noting ‘that the [Armagh] team commandeered a steam-roller to convey them from St McCartan’s to the Station. The symbolism was very apt.’

Under the guidance of Fr Tom Rafferty and with the assistance of Fr Con Murphy the following were the members of the St Patrick’s College, Armagh side which made history by being the first team to win the MacRory Cup:

Owen Mc Eleavey (Captain), J. McKay, Paddy McRory, Joe McAviney, I.O’Riordan, Hughie Arthurs, J. Murphy, J. Quinn, F.Malone, G. Patton, P.Crilly, J.J.Kelly, John Mackle, J. Donnelly, I.McGlone, R. Callan, H. Brady, P. Connolly

By JA Walshe Published in The Irish News 14 November, 2023