Mageean Cup Final 1977-78
Early March 1978 in Fr Maginn Park Glenravel
Cross and Passion Ballycastle 7-10 St Mary’s CBS Belfast 3-4
THE Mageean Cup attracted four entries in 1977-78; St Mary’s CBS and St Louis Kilkeel were placed in Group A while Cross and Passion Ballycastle and St MacNissi’s Garron Tower in Group B. The Group winners then played the runners-up from the other group in the semi-finals. This resulted in the group winners Cross and Passion and St Mary’s making it through to a final played in early March in Glenravel.
Conditions were perfect on the day with just a slight breeze favouring Ballycastle during the opening half. Early play switched from end to end with Gerard McCambridge’s lobbed ball finding Olcan McFetridge on the edge of the square and the future All-Star neatly little flicked the opening score.
By half-time Cross and Passion were on course for the win, ahead by 3-6 to 2-3, although it was their defenders, and in particular Cushendall’s Brendan McAllister, who were the stars. At midfield Brian Donnelly and Terence Barton worked tirelessly against Terry Fallon who was emerging as St Mary’s star player.
Up front captain Dessie Donnelly attracted most attention from the St Mary’s defence but he cleverly laid ball off to the younger players who took full advantage to stretch the Cross and Passion lead as the second half developed.
“However the player who most entertained the spectators was little Olcan McFetridge. The 15-year-old Armoy lad, who already has six Ulster Colleges’ medals and an Antrim county minor championship medal to his credit, picked off three points from all angles with great ease in the first half and crowned his glory with an astonishing goal in the second.” (Coleraine Chronicle report)
During the second half the Donnelly brothers picked off some fine long range points and Gerard McCambridge and Dessie Donnelly each bagged two goals as Cross and Passion eased to a 7-10 to 3-4 victory. Apart from Terry Fallon, St Mary’s players Gerry Donnelly, Jim Sheridan, Brian O’Kane and Dessie Smart all put in a good shift but St Mary’s excellent run of 13 successive victories in the competition came to a halt.
The winning Cross and Passion team:
Cross & Passion: John McHenry, Patrick Dallat, Ciarán Donnelly, Liam Gallagher, Tommy McIntyre, Hugh McNeill, Brendan McAlister, Brian Donnelly 0-1, Terence Barton 1-0, Brendan Elliott 0-1, Dessie Donnelly capt. 2-4, Vincent Dornan 0-1, Billy Campbell 1-0, Gerard McCambridge 2-0, Olcan McFetridge 1-3.
Subs : Michael McNeill, Paul McClafferty, John Butler.
St Mary’s scorers from that decisive game in Glenravel were: S Darragh 1-1, Terry Fallon 1-0, Eamon Mullan 1-0, Jim Sheridan 0-1, Dessie Smart 0-1, Brian O’Kane 0-1.
The Donnelly brothers had followed older brothers to St MacNissi’s Garron Tower. Both Kevin and Eddie were on the very first Mageean Cup winning team from the Tower. Dessie switched to Cross and Passion to complete his A Level studies shortly before he helped Ballycastle club win back the Volunteer Cup after an absence of 11 seasons. He decided to return to repeat A Levels this year and was handed the captaincy of the Mageean Cup team.
Brian meanwhile had moved from St MacNissi’s to Cross and Passion in September 1977 again to take on A Level studies and was a huge addition to the school hurling team, most of whom were drawn from younger classes.
Several players from the team have confirmed that one of the main reasons the school made the breakthrough that season was the unexpected addition of the Donnelly brothers. However there had been a strong group of players coming through in Star of the Sea secondary school in the town under Seamus Hegarty and its amalgamation with the small group of boys already coming through Cross and Passion was to create a winning tradition at senior level.
A number of players from that team became the backbone of the Ballycastle club team that won six more Antrim and Ulster senior titles up to 1986 and played in the 1980 All-Ireland club final. Three of the team, the Donnelly brothers and Olcan McFetridge, went on to play for Antrim in the 1989 All-Ireland hurling final with Dessie and Clute becoming All-stars. Interesting to read that Clute 11 years earlier was wooing reporters with his skilful scores. Liam Gallagher was centre-half back on the Antrim team who played Cork in the 1990 semi-final while Tommy McIntyre was to make his name as a referee, and took charge of the 2001 All Ireland semi-final between Cork and Galway.
PS – If anyone has a better copy of the team photo please let us know