By Shaun Casey
THIRTY years ago, Paul O’Hagan lined out for Clan na Gael in the St Paul’s Minor Tournament final as his side suffered an 11-point defeat to Donegal’s Aodh Ruadh.
This weekend, O’Hagan will be back in St Paul’s, this time patrolling the sideline as manager, with the Lurgan Blues once again representing Armagh.
“Getting to represent your club in Ulster, it’s something that doesn’t come along that often, so we’re delighted that this tournament raised its head again just in time for us to take part in it,” said O’Hagan.
“We’ve played in it before so that’s an added bonus, there’s a bit of history for us in the tournament. We played in it three years in a row, and we got to the final in 1992.”
That side included names that would go on to win Celtic Crosses in the orange and white of Armagh in 2002.
“I was playing myself and that was the year Armagh minors got to the All-Ireland final. So, it would have been Barry O’Hagan, Diarmaid Marsden and Kevin O’Hagan that played on that minor team, they were our main players. It’s great to get back to it, there’s a lot of people in the club that would remember that, and the supporters remember going down to St Paul’s and having those days.
“We got to the final, we played on New Year’s Day in 1993 and Boxing Day as well obviously because we got to the semi-final. Just to get playing those matches over the holidays adds a great wee buzz to the club.”
A lot of good work has gone on at underage level at the Clans, which they hope will translate into senior championship gold in the near future.
“We are happy with where we’re at with the underage. It’s great winning the minor championships, it’s a big thing for us because there’s a lot of work being done and our numbers are increasing, we’re competing more and more at the top levels of the underage competitions so that’s our starting point.
“If you get a few wins along the way, then it adds a bit of gloss to it. The numbers we have for boys and girls and the quality of players we’re producing has certainly upped over the last five or ten years. We’re competing at senior level now so we’re hoping that’ll bear some fruit in the next few years.”
They take on Donegal’s Four Masters this weekend, who overcame St Molaise in the preliminary round. “That’s the bonus we had of being able to play the winners of the preliminary, we’re the only team that really got a look at their opposition,” added O’Hagan.
“Everybody else is unknown but we did get that slight advantage of getting a look at them last week and to go down to get a feel for the tournament.
“They have two big, big midfielders and they have two or three really fast, pacy boys in the forward line. They go for goals a lot and it’s all down to the pace that they attack at,” he added.