Magherafelt return to St Paul’s after 13-year wait

By Niall Gartland

CIARAN Higgins has had a long association with the St Paul’s tournament and he’s hoping that this particular Magherafelt side can do something special in this year’s competition.

Higgins lined out in the St Paul’s Tournament as a player back in 1992 where they fell short against a strong Clan na Gael side blessed with players like Diarmaid Marsden.

He was back nearly two decades later in 2010 as part of the management team alongside Damian McErlain and Geoffrey Higgins (both of whom are also involved with the current set-up). On that occasion they got the better of a star-studded Kilcoo side in the last four but lost the final to Lamh Dhearg.

In theory they should’ve had another crack at the whip in 2021 having won in Derry, but St Paul’s had been placed in hold due to Covid-19.

In the here and now they won their second title in three years in Derry with a hard-fought win over Lavey, and they’ll quietly fancy their chances of doing something special as clubs from the Oak Leaf County have traditionally excelled in the competition.

Indeed, Magherafelt can call upon six of the team that won the All-Ireland Minor title with Derry earlier in the year, including starters Karl Campbell, Cahir Spiers (pictured), Conall Higgins and Rory Small.

Bellaghy won last year’s tournament with a victory over Donegal side Four Masters, whom Magherafelt happen to be playing in this weekend’s quarter-final.

Higgins said: “Derry teams have a really good record in the competition and invariably anyone who comes out of Derry will have a chance in Ulster.

“We weren’t favourites to come through Derry, Ballinascreen and Lavey were strongly fancied, and we’d a tough run to the final. We hope that tough run will stand to us.

“We’ve been dong well at underage level, we’ve competed in four of the last five finals. The teams that have beaten us in Derry have gone on to win the Ulster titles and that’s a reflection of how strong football is in the county.”

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