NO matter what happens in this weekend’s Masita All-Ireland Colleges’ Senior ‘A’ football final, 2013 will be the year of the Pats.
And this decider, between St Patrick's, Navan, and St Patrick's, Maghera, looks almost destined to go to the wire.
Historically, there is very little between them and even this weekend it’s quite possible that the game will be decided in the dying minutes.
Maghera joint-managers Sean Marty Lockhart and Martin Mc-Connell have not really seen their side tested that much en route to this Croke Park decider but there about to be put to the pin of their collar now. Last time out they got a slight shock early in their win over St Gerald’s but recovered pretty quickly after the Mayo lads shone in the early stages and established a three-point lead. But St Pat’s nabbed two late first-half goals and that proved to be crucial as, with the wind in the second period, they bossed the game.
In that clash they looked to Conor Glass to thwart their Castlebar rivals but in truth Glass has been a star all season long, winning awards and plaudits with almost every game he plays.
“Conor took the game to them and that set the tone,” said McConnell of his star player, Glass. “ He’s a shy lad but he’s only one of 33 of our panel who really wants to win an All Ireland title.
“His goals were big turning points; just moments that you need to win an All-Ireland semi-final.”
The MacRory Cup champions have been well served by the likes of Peter Cassidy, Danny Tallon and Neil McNicholl this year and these players were instrumental in the Ulster side scoring 2-3 without reply just before the break to ensure a path to the All-Ireland final.
Meanwhile, the other St Pat’s side, the Navan version, is on the hunt for a fourth Hogan Cup title having accounted for Corca Duibhne 2-7 - 0-11 in their semi-final which was played at MacDonagh Park, Nenagh.
They are managed, of course, by Meath legend Colm O'Rourke, and held off a strong second half fight back by Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne. Their strong lead came from early goals by Barry Dardis and Robert McDonnell but that margin was slashed to just two points at the end.
Kerry senior football boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice flew back from the Kingdom's training camp in Portugal to take charge of the Pobascoil Chorca Dhuibhne team but saw his side fall just short.
“We were hanging on at the end and were desperately lucky to escape with the victory,” O’Rourke admitted
This final will be preceded by the Masita GAA All-Ireland VS senior football 'A' final between Holy Trinity, Cookstown, and Cnoc Mhuire, Granard.
Peter Canavan’s side will be hoping to hit the winners podium after racking up 2-12 to Davitt College, Castlebar’s 1-6 in the semi-final.
“The lads have had a very exciting few weeks; they were getting ready to play an All Ireland final at Croke Park and where better to play?” Canavan says. “But we had a serious bit of work to do,” he said. “We underperformed the last day. The team can play a lot better and we have a lot to work on. We’re in the privileged position where we can improve.”
It was a slow start they endured before eventually emerging comfortable winners in the semi-final. Points from Francis Burns, Ryan Loughran and James McGahan coupled with a goal from the latter deflated the Mayo men and helped the reigning champions into a 1-5 to 0-3 interval advantage. They never looked back. It remains to be seen if they can now go a step further.
There is hurling silverware up for grabs this weekend also as the Masita GAA senior hurling “B” final between Dungarvan CBS and St Mary's CBGS, Belfast, throws-in with Dungarvan still on a high from their combined colleges ‘A’ final win.
They’ll be many people’s tips to win the ‘B’ final as well but the Belfast side have a huge reputation in schools hurling and will fancy their chances of clinching the trophy.
This game was postponed initially as three of the St Mary’s team planned to visit Zambia to help on a pastoral care mission. St. Mary’s CBGS have been part of the Christian Brothers Developing World Immersion Programme since 2001; an initiative which encourages schools in the Edmund Rice Network in throughout Ireland to connect with Christian Brother communities and projects in the Developing World. Indeed, the Belfast school is widely recognised as effectively setting the standard for all other immersion projects.
Sadly, this year’s trip had to be cancelled as Belfast City Airport was closed shortly due to the recent harsh weather.
The school’s senior hurlers will now be hoping to bring some good news back to their classmates. They defeated St Raphael’s, Loughrea in the semi-final and in doing so Paddy Linden’s side made a statement for that Loughrea was, up to recently, winning Connacht and national ‘A’ titles.
Top performers this year are full back and Antrim Senior panel member Tomas Ó Ciarain and forwards Conor Kerr, James Connolly. Indeed, the Mary's rearguard held of O'Ciaran and goalkeeper John Darragh have been particularly impressive.
“Things have been going well for us in recent years and we have a nice bit of experience built up,” Linden says. “The lads are on a high but we’ll need to keep that going if we’re to beat Dungarvan CBS in the final. If it was Antrim against Waterford in the morning we would be clear underdogs so we’ll be all out to keep bucking the trend.”
Comhairle Iarbhunscoileanna now has it’s own youtube channel– PPGAATV will cover highlights of a number of Masita GAA All Ireland Post Primary Schools Championship fixtures in the coming week.
Highlights of the following fixtures will be available on PPGAATV this Sunday evening: www.youtube.com/PPGAATV
St.Mary’s CBGS Belfast v Dungarvan CBS
Croke Park Ticketing / Admission Prices Saturday 13th April
Admission: Adults: €20 OAPs/Students/Juveniles: €5
Lower Tier of the Cusack Stand will be open to patrons.
Tickets can be purchased at the rear of the Cusack Stand on the day.