The MacRory Cup
The 2020 MacRory and MacLarnon Cup finals will be played once it is safe to do so, insists Ulster Schools' Secretary Seamus Woods.
St Patrick's Maghera were due to play old rivals St Colman's Newry in the MacRory decider on St Patrick's Day, which was to be preceded by St Pius Magherafelt's clash with Knock.
Both finals were postponed as part of the lock-down following the outbreak of Covid-19.
“We remain determined that the 2020 MacRory Cup final (the 96th consecutive final) and the MacLarnon Cup (61st consecutive final) will be played,” read a statement from Woods, released to the County Derry Post.
“We cannot be more specific at this stage, but we will use all the ingenuity at our disposal, acting of course at all times within all relevant public health guidelines, to ensure that this will happen.”
Woods also highlighted that while the All-Ireland competitions (Hogan and Paddy Drummond Cups) may be out of the question, but the Ulster Schools' board are determined to play their own competitions to a conclusion.
“Nobody is setting off in September to win the Hogan, they are aiming to win the MacRory. After that, you have the additional bonus of facing the winners of the other provinces,” he added.
“If the protocols of the pandemic goes beyond June, the school year has ended but the calendar year hasn't ended.”
It is not just the MacRory and MacLarnon, we have the final stages, in all grades, of the Year 9 and Year 11 competitions, including the D'Alton Cup.
St Patrick's Maghera joint-manager Paul Hughes described the situation as 'surreal'.
“It is all so far up in the air for so many people,” Hughes said, describing the current situation with schools being closed.
Hughes highlighted the importance of playing the competition, but it needed to be when the time is right. He wasn't ruling out a September date.
“It is exceptional times,” he added. “What if we started a new school year with a delayed MacRory Final? In the present climate, what is there to stop that?
“The boys aren't committing to anything else, there is nothing else going on for them. It is a barren landscape, in terms of football for them at the minute.
“If we were to play a MacRory final in September, given we are living in exceptional times surely we'll be able to make exceptional decisions in that way.”
Hughes is in agreement with Woods, in that it would be important not to have a year the final wasn't played.
“We had Lavey cubs this year. They would've started their competition in April and they were still going on New Year's Day.
“In the present climate of MacRory coming under the spotlight and people, in my mind, trying to put the school competitions on the back burner – I think it would be important to retain the continuity with the 96th final.
“That in itself, would show a resolve on the part of the schools taking part and Ulster Schools'. It could see the likes of ourselves and maybe St Colman's would bring boys back to play in it. What would that not say something about what the players think of this.
“It should be about the players and not squeezing it out. We should be giving the players the best experiences we can. If we were able to get that. If I told our boys there was no MacRory final until the first week of September, I'd say they would jump at it.”
- Sean Marty Lockhart is now on the other side of the line. Click here...
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