Former Antrim colleagues in opposite corners for MacRory final

MacRory Cup Final preview

St. Mary’s Magherafelt v Holy Trinity Cookstown.

Earlier in the week we spoke to Niamh Hughes, manager of St. Mary’s Magherafelt ladies team about the influence of players from the South West Antrim area on the side that will contest Thursday’s PPS U20 Final at Garvaghy against Colaiste Oiriall of Monaghan and the article received a great response from our readers.

It’s been a big week for the South Derry College and on Sunday their footballers take on Holy Trinity, Cookstown in the MacRory Cup final at the Athletic Grounds Armagh. Like the ladies team, St. Mary’s have a strong representation from South West Antrim with no less than four clubs from the area represented on the panel.

Add to that the fact that both sides are managed by men from the South West, Kevin Brady and John McKeever, former colleagues on the Antrim county team, so the final is sure to attract quite a sizeable support from the South West Antrim area and indeed throughout the county.

Earlier in the week I spoke to Kevin Brady, former Moneyglass and Antrim player and manager of the ’Convent’ and first of all I asked him, Who are the South West players on the St. Mary’s team and panel and what clubs do they play for?

The South West Antrim contingent: Conhuir Johnston, Sean Byrne, Sean McAuley, Kevin Brady (Manager), Benen Kelly, Tom Shivers and Paul Duffin

Kevin Brady: We have a strong representation from clubs in the South West. Three players from Erin’s Own, Cargin – Conhuir Johnston, Tom Shivers and Benen Kelly, Paul Duffin from Moneyglass, (a son of Garry Duffin whom I played alongside for Moneyglass back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s), Sean Byrne from Portglenone (who will be coming up against his new Senior Club Manager John McKeever) and Sean McAuley from Creggan (whose Father Kevin teaches in our school and Sean’s Uncle is of course former Creggan and Antrim great, Sean McAuley). Jarlaith McKeating from St Comgall’s in Antrim is also a panel member but has been out injured all season. I also of course used to play with and against John McKeever from Portglenone so we are friends as well as rivals on Sunday.

I continued, tell me something about these players and the impact they have made to the St. Mary’s success this year.

Kevin Brady: All these players have been at St. Mary’s since Year 8 and have progressed through the ranks very well. Some of these boys have played in a Rannafast Cup final 2 years ago when they were narrowly beaten by Maghera. The Year 13 boys (Conhuir, Sean Byrne and Paul Duffin also won the Year 11 competition 2 years ago when they shared the Oisin McGrath shield with St. Colman’s – the final wasn’t played due to Covid. Conhuir Johnston also played on the MacRory team as a Year 11 pupil.

The St. Mary’s manager went on to tell me about his side’s season, who they played in the qualifiers and what he knew about their opponents in the final.

Kevin Brady:  We beat St. Patrick’s Armagh, the Abbey and Our Lady and St. Patrick’s Knock in the group stages. Then we beat St. Patrick’s Dungannon in the Quarter-final and Omagh CBS in the semi-final. We haven’t played Holy Trinity Cookstown this year, even in a challenge match but we know they will be a very formidable team. They have a lot of talented players and have been knocking on the door for a few years now. They also have a very experienced management team with John McKeever alongside Peter Canavan.

There is another connection amongst the St. Mary’s management team to the South West with the Cargin contingent coached by their new senior team manager. I asked Kevin about his management-coaching team.

Kevin Brady: I’m joined on the management team by Ronan Devlin (the Cargin manager-Ronan has been coach at Cargin for the last four years before becoming manager for the coming season) and John McElholm from Loughmacrory. Both John and Ronan have a lot of experience in the management/coaching game and have been a great help to me again this season. 

I then asked Kevin about his panel and their state of health going into Sunday’s final.

Kevin Brady: Everyone is fit and healthy at the minute thankfully. We have appealed the sending off of our full back Niall Rafferty (who was sent off in the semi-final) and the hearing is on Monday night. Niall was given a straight red card towards the end of the victory over Omagh.

Good news for St. Mary’s. Niall Rafferty had his Red card decision overturned at an appeal on Monday night and is available to play in Sunday’s final.

There are no South West players in the Holy Trinity panel but of course there is a South West connection with their manager, John McKeever hailing from Portglenone. John has a strong managerial C.V. and has managed several clubs in Tyrone and will be assisted by former Tyrone great, Peter Canavan.

McKeever and Canavan have just taken up the reins as Casement’s manager for the coming season while another Cargin and former Antrim player, Kevin O’Boyle teaches in the school and manages the Year 11 team so there may be a divided loyalty from the South West support

Sunday’s final should be another cracker with both side showing impressive form on their journey to the decider. The Saffron Gael hope to have someone at the final and will carry photographs and a report from the game.


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