Pat King Cup Final - Ulster U16 Football
St Colm’s Draperstown v St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s Claudy
Thursday (12.30) – Owenbeg
If the league meeting between the teams is an accurate barometer, then Thursday’s final will go right down to the wire, according to St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s Claudy manager Brian Rainey.
St Colm’s took advantage of a few wayward Claudy kick-outs, clinically punishing them with goals
Rainey felt the 3-11 to 2-11 Draperstown victory didn’t reflect the game but told his young charges that they could meet again.
“There was only a couple of kicks of a ball between us. I had a feeling that our paths would cross again after the day we played them in Claudy and it has proved that way,” revealed the Craigbane defender.
Claudy were ‘fortunate’ in their opening group game where they almost came a cropper against a Dungiven side who came as a surprise.
“The last couple of years, they have not been as strong. They were very good this year and we were undercooked but got through that game by a point,” Rainey added.
A comfortable win over La Salle got the ball rolling but following their defeat to St Colm’s, the Claudy boss went searching for a new goalkeeper (Ethan McLaughlin) as he focussed on winning primary possession.
“He has got a lovely strike of the ball,” Rainey stated. “I took him down to try a few kick-outs and I stuck him in nets and he has been brilliant.
“Some of the saves he has made in the plays-offs and semi-finals have kept us in the competition. Having been able to win some of our own ball has been brilliant and the bonus has been that really good shot-stopper.”
Their defeat to Draperstown forced Claudy into a play-off with Sacred Heart Omagh, but the game was abandoned following a nasty ankle injury to Niall McGonagle.
In the replay, the following week, Claudy stretched away. The quarter-final proved to be a ‘mismatch’ as they were too strong for Ballybay.
In the semi-final against a wasteful Cootehill, Claudy raced into a four point lead but the Cavan men kicked 13 first-half wides.
“We could’ve lost that game,” recalled Rainey. “Maybe it was complacency and we took our foot off the gas, so they came back into it.
“They could have been easily six or seven up at half-time. I gave them a talk and changed a few things, we were better in the second-half.”
Cootehill still managed to reduce the gap in the second-half but Claudy were more composed on the ball to seal a final spot against St Colm’s.
Looking at their opponents, Rainey pointed at their strong midfield diamond.
“If you are strong through your spine at youth level it is very important,” he concluded.
“We are going to be in a game and I hope that my boys raise it a level from the last day and I can see this going down to the wire. I know they have a strong team, they have a good setup and Ciaran Meenagh is a very good manager.”
Although St Colm’s went through their campaign unbeaten, manager Meenagh highlighted his side’s slow start.
There are few survivors from last year’s team. The Draperstown side will be shaped around the Gerry Brown Cup (Year 10) winning team, who were a ‘year young’ for Thursday’s encounter.
Mark McGeehan, rated as a ‘good defender’ by Meenagh is one of his Year 12 players, Glen’s John Glass and Jack Conway are two others but the St Colm’s manager confirmed that Mark McCullagh will miss the game with injury.
Victor Mura, was born in Poland but has lived here since his primary school days at St Mary’s, next door.
“He is a good footballer, he is a good lad and a very good athlete,” highlighted Meenagh.
“I have a very good goalkeeper, Reece McGuigan. He is one to keep an eye on. He can play as an extra defender as well. The lads will give him the ball and he plays from the back.”
However, a huge loss will be Desertmartin’s Connor Shiels who is on a family holiday to Australia and will miss the game. Shiels captained St Colm’s glory last year and the Derry U15s’ Ulster winning team.
“We started it (our campaign) slowly,” Meenagh pointed out. “When we got to the knock-out stages, I saw our quarter final and I said ‘it will take a good team to beat us’ and I said that to the lads after the game.
“When we played in the league stages we were rumbly, we were missing lads, there was hurling and different club commitments on.”
In the semi-final against Moville, St Colm’s went to the well in the closing stages.
“It could’ve went any way,” Meenagh admitted. “Going into injury time we were up by a point and all the momentum was with them.
“We were in serious trouble. They looked like getting a goal, we might have got a block on the line. From that we got a really scrappy goal and the game was effectively over at that.”
It was 2-7 from Jack Conway that did the damage and Brian Rainey will have to decide if he puts ace defender Niall McCloskey on him.
Likewise at the other end, Andrew McBride could be handed the task of marking Niall McGonagle.
Jack Boyce, who played in Claudy’s minor championship success, will be a vital player and may be pitted against John Glass at midfield.
It has the makings of tight final and the absence of Shiels could tip the scales in Claudy’s favour. Only just.
PATHS TO THE FINAL
St Colm’s 4-14 La Salle, Belfast 2-9
St Colm’s 3-6 St Patrick’s, Dungiven 2-8
St Colm’s 3-11 SPB Claudy 2-1
St Colm’s 2-17 Scoil Mhuire Buncrana 3-8
St Colm’s 3-12 Moville CC 2-10
SPB Claudy 1-13 St Patrick’s, Dungiven 1-12
SPB Claudy 5-8 La Salle, Belfast 2-4
SPB Claudy 2-11 St Colm’s 3-11
SPB Claudy 5-10 Sacred Heart Omagh 4-5
SPB Claudy 5-10 Ballybay Community College 1-4
SPB Claudy 3-13 St. Aidan’s, Cootehill 4-4
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