St Paul’s return after 30-year absence

By Michael McMullan

IT has been 30 years since St Paul’s competed in the minor tournament they’ve stitched into the fabric of Ulster football but they’re back this weekend.

Manager Damien Duffy said it’s magic to be going in against Down champions Mayobridge on Saturday (Shaw’s Road 1pm).

“The squad know the history of the tournament, the origins of it, how long it has been going and the effort that has been put into it by our club members,” Duffy told Gaelic Life.

“Now that we are part of it as a squad, it is special and are looking forward to playing in it.”

Duffy has been involved with the current group since their days of fundamentals’ coaching. They’d have played in the half-time games at the finals down the years.

“They have always been at the tournament but they might not remember it. Last year, they were on the balcony (watching the tournament) and shouting “Duff, hopefully that will be us next year” so they are aware.”

Two years ago, they beat St Brigid’s in the final of the u-15 league before getting “tanked” a few weeks later in the championship final.

This year, the management asked for buy in from the players which would be reciprocated.

They saw off St Brigid’s in the championship opener before wins over Naomh Éanna and Glenravel set up a final with Aghagallon.

“We had a tough run into the final ad have played all our championship games away from home and have not played on the pitch since July,” Duffy said.

“That (u-15 final defeat to St Brigid’s) knocked the stuffing out of us and we really had to lift the boys over the last two years.

“The coaches have worked hard and the squad has come together very well and we have knuckled down.

“We have a really good group, they have worked really hard all season and have got rewards for it.”

St Paul’s were handed a walkover after the unfinished Tyrone Championship and the Red Hand county not nominating a representative before last Friday’s deadline.

They now face Mayobridge who were winners over Liatroim and Warrenpoint before seeing off Kilcoo, 4-12 to 3-10, in the Down final.

“You know they will be well coached and well drilled, they are a good footballing club,” Duffy said of this weekend’s opponents.

“They are a good team and as I said to our boys, it is the champions’ league where you are going to be playing against all the champions

“They have boys playing in the MacRory Cup and on county minor panels whereas we don’t.

“It’s 30 years since we won it and we knew we had a squad that can compete this year.

“We had three tough away games. We beat the three best teams in it and when it came to the final we delivered.”

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