St Patrick’s Maghera v St Louis Ballymena
Tuesday (1.15) – Ahoghill
Ref: Brendan Toland (Lamh Dhearg)
St Patrick’s Maghera manager Sean Marty Lockhart knows a thing or two about defending.
The former all-star football full-back, who also captained Maghera to a narrow Mageean Cup final defeat to Ballycastle, made man-marking his speciality in a decorated playing career.
The name Ronan McCollum will feature heavily on his radar ahead of this afternoon’s game, after the Loughgiel starlet’s 6-7 tally in their semi-final over Cross and Passion Ballycastle.
The Ballymena school have been reinvigorated on the Ulster Schools’ scene since the appointment of Sean Rafferty as Principal and his emphasis on school sport.
They are managed by Tyrone man Colm Morgan from Naomh Colmcille and Loughgiel’s Conor Gillan who also doubles up as Swatragh’s senior camogie manager.
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St Louis won a 10-15 to 1-6 landslide semi-final, against Ballycastle, that was over at half-time and the alarm bells will be ringing in the Maghera ears.
McCollum isn’t the only St Louis ace. Elsewhere, they carry a threat from Oisin McCamphill, Tom McFerran, Dara Martin and TP McGurk who all found the net.
Maghera go into the final on a back of a tougher battle in their 3-9 to 1-8 win over a fancied St Killian’s side, a game played in St Louis’ backyard of Slemish Park.
Man of the match Eamon Cassidy opened the scoring but it was a Niall Barton goal in the sixth minute that helped open up a 1-4 to 0-5 interval lead.
Garron Tower lost two key players to injury during the early stages of the second-half and when Cassidy fired home a second goal – after a brilliant catch on the edge of the square – Maghera had one foot in the final.
Finn Bradley came off the bench to add a third goal, with his first touch, to cap off the victory.
Both panels were represented at last weekend’s All-Ireland Féile in Cork and it remains to be seen how it will affect the energy levels today in Ahoghill.
St Louis will carry the favourites tag by virtue of their hammering of Ballycastle who have become the bench mark in Ulster Schools’ hurling but nobody revels in the face of adversity like Maghera. They thrive on it but will need to translate it into a performance if they are bring back the cup.
Last week St Colm’s Draperstown lost out in the McFarland Cup Final because they had nobody to blot out the threat of Keady’s Thomas Galvin. If Lockhart can hatch a plan to nullify Ronan McCollum, then Maghera have a chance.
St Patrick’s: Fintan O’Connell, Tiernan McCormick, Eoinn Scullion, Danny McDermott, Dara McGurk, Adam McLaughlin, Aimon Duffin, Jack McGroarty, Joseph McCullough, Matthew Mullan, Jack Dunne, Fionn McEldowney, Eamon Cassidy, Niall Barton, Conall Bradley.
St Louis: Ciaran McQuillan, Tony McCann, Pearse Patterson, Conan McAuley, Sean Moore, Aodhan McGarry, Conor Laverty, Dara Patterson, Kevin O’Boyle, Tom McFerran, Oisin McCamphill, Darra Martin, Ronan McCollum, TP McGurk, Jack McCloskey.
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