It has been suggested on many occasions that the lack of a strong college team at MacRory Cup level has been the reason for Antrim’s lack of success and certainly when it comes to Ulster College’s premier football competition that suggestion would appear to have some substance to it but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
St. Mary’s CBS have competed well in MacRory for a number of years but have lacked the overall strength to challenge the heavy hitters at MacRory level with the power houses of Derry, Tyrone and Armagh dominating this competition for many years.
In the McLarnon competition St. Louis Ballymena have also performed admirably but have fallen short at the semi-final juncture on a number of occasions in recent years but both St. Mary’s and St. Louis have produced some excellent players who have gone on to represent their county at minor and senior level.
This year’s MacRory final sees St. Mary’s Magherafelt come up against surprise packets, St. Ronan’s Lugan. St. Ronan’s wouldn’t have been on many people’s radar as serious MacRory contenders at the start of the present campaign but have turned in some superb performances to reach this year’s decider.
St. Mary’s Magherafelt were winners of the MacRory last year but when they faced fierce rivals and neighbours, St. Patrick’s Maghera in the semi-final this year they were installed as underdogs with the Maghera side fancied to go on to lift the trophy.
St. Mary’s confounded the pundits by defeating St. Pats while in the other semi-final St. Ronan’s recorded a fine victory over St. Patrick’s Armagh but what have the success of a Derry and an Armagh college got to do with Antrim?
Well both teams have a strong representation of Antrim players within their ranks. Represented on the Magherafelt side were four players from Kickham’s Creggan with Jamie McCann, Tiarnan McAteer, Dominic McAteer and Liam Quinn to the fore as St. Mary’s hit six goals to send the South Derry seat of learning through to a second consecutive final. Included on the St. Mary’s panel are Aidan Hamill Moneyglass, Morgan Nelson Creggan and Ciaran O’Neill Tir na nOg.
Indeed the Antrim representation would have been greater but Moneyglass’ Eamon Kelly, who played on last year’s winning side did his cruciate in the first MacRory match of the season and is out until 2019.
St. Mary’s are managed by Moneyglass man Kevin Brady who represented his county for over a decade and was one of the Saffron’s outstanding performers during that period. An astute player for both club and county, Brady brings a deep knowledge of the game to the Magherafelt seat of learning and was at the helm when they won last year’s MacRory.
St. Ronan’s too look across the Armagh-Antrim border to a number of players from St. Mary’s Aghagallon who have all played a major part in the Lurgan college’s recent success. Luke Mulholland, Aidan Mulholland, Jamie Lamont, Jack Lenehan, Adam Loughran and Mark McAffee all played their part in that excellent win over St. Patrick’s Armagh and have been an intricate part of the St. Ronan’s success story this season.
The Antrim players in opposition on Monday at the Athletic grounds will need no introduction to each other. They have met recently in the Antrim minor league and will have crossed swords in games between Aghagallon and Creggan in South West competitions in recent years.
No matter who comes out tops on Monday the future of football in Antrim looks bright. Hopefully many of these lads will go on to represent the county at U21 and senior level.
Later this week we will carry an interview with St. Mary’s manager, Kevin Brady and we also hope to talk to the St. Ronan’s management.