St Patrick’s, Cavan are ready to roar in the MacRory Cup

October 19, 2016

St Patrick’s, Cavan annexed their first MacRory Cup title for 43 years in 2015. Only two players survive from that squad, yet joint-manager Fr Kevin Fay is confident the latest batch can turn a few heads this season. Kevin Óg Carney writes…

BEFORE history was rewritten by the ‘Class of 2014/15’, St Patrick’s College, Cavan didn’t so much have a monkey on its back as a veritable King Kong-type figure.

The ending of a decades-long MacRory Cup hex (which had lasted since 1972) a year ago by the Cavan college left the halls of the famous academic and sporting institute clogged with the dust of an infamous 43-year-old record that had just been smashed.

Ahead of the commencement of a new MacRory Cup campaign, Cavan’s iconic secondary school is hell bent on being one of the special guests at the colleges’ blue riband day on March 17 next and lifting the glittering prize yet again.

To get that far, St Pat’s joint-manager Fr Kevin Fay reckons a lot of big challenges awaits his troops: “To my mind, the group we’re in is a very tough one, tougher than last year and we have our work cut out to get into the quarter-finals,” Fr Fay said.

“To be in with the likes of the two big guns, Omagh CBS and St Colman’s, Newry, plus a Patrician Brothers [Carrickmacross] side that won the Rannafast last year and a dark horse in St Mary’s, Magherafelt represents a major challenge for our lads, but I think we’ll be okay.”

How okay?

“We’ve quite a strong squad although it’s a fairly young squad. We’ve only two survivors from the team that featured in the final last year, Darragh Kennedy [half-back] and Patrick O’Reilly [full-back], but all the lads have shown a great attitude, a great work ethic and great commitment and we’re hoping to do very well.”

In 2014, St Pat’s attempts to make their first MacRory Cup final since 1975 ended with a narrow loss in the semi-final to the then defending champions, St Pat’s, Maghera. Then in 2015, of course, the promised land was reached by a lot of the fellas who had scooped the Rannafast Cup in 2013 with a sensational comeback against Omagh CBS.

It meant that the group had won every college title available to them bar the Corn na nÓg. But the ‘Class of 2016/2017’ has its own pedigree. It actually won the Corn na nÓg. However, if the truth be told though, it has lost more than it has won by suffering defeats last year in both the semi-final of the Dalton Cup and the semi-final of the Rannafast Cup and also the semi-final of the Brock Cup.

“These fellas are a talented bunch but they’re very hungry to get among the prizes,” Fr Fay said.

“They know they’re going to have to play very well though from the very start of the campaign to make progress. In my mind, we have to win at least one and possibly two matches before Christmas to get into position to stay in the competition; that’s the short-term target.

“We know from experience though that we have to pace ourselves so we won’t be starting training in earnest until approaching the last week of October, partly because a lot of our players have been involved in senior and minor championship semi-finals and finals until the middle of October.”

The Gowna native, an ex-Mullahoran senior player and senior manager, is happy to report that ahead of their MacRory Cup campaign, St Pat’s will have a full squad to call upon apart from injured pair Cormac Timoney [Ballinagh] and clubmate Gavin Smith who may miss their college’s first two matches.

Even though it’s only the first two finishers in the five-team group who automatically go through to the quarter-finals, the St Pat’s, Cavan troupe will be expected to at least make the play-offs by finishing third or fourth behind – as the bookies see it – Omagh CBS and St Colman’s, Newry.

A semi-final berth is a realistic target, seasoned college observers remark. Fr Fay, however, remains cautiously optimistic: “We’ll see. Omagh and Colman’s would be short-odds favourites to finish in the top two and then Patrician [Carrickmacross] would be tipped for third spot and I suppose then us and St Mary’s in fifth, but we’ll see,” Fr Fay adds.

“There’s a tremendous spirit and camaraderie in this year’s group, as there was in the panel of 2015 so that’ll help us along. We’d like to put down a marker in our first game against Omagh. It’s not a must-win game but doing well off the starting blocks is important.”

Fr Fay is joined in the St Pat’s think-tank by fellow teachers Kevin Donohoe (Drumalee) and Cathal Bogue (Ballinagh).

published in The Irish News 19th October 2016