BY KIERAN LYNCH
IT’S the quarter-final stage now of the Danske Bank Ulster Schools MacRory Cup, and one of the ties of the round promises to take place at Healy Park on Friday night.
In a repeat of last year’s encounter at the same stage, Omagh CBS are hosting St Colman’s College Newry, and if it is anything like last year, spectators are in for a treat, as extra-time was needed 12 months ago, with the Brothers winning 1-16 to 1-9.
Pat McNabb is part of the Omagh CBS management team alongside manager Diarmaid McNulty and former Tyrone footballer Ciaran McBride.
With three group matches played, and three comprehensive victories, all has been going well for the Kevlin Road school.
“People will get carried away when looking at the scorelines, but we fortunate with the nature of the opposition that we met,” said McNabb.
“We played St Michael’s on the first day out and had a good win against them, but admittedly, they were missing a number of significant players with injuries, so they caught us at a bad time.
“Then we played a young St Eunan’s team, and St Patrick’s Cavan, who have both been hit by a lack of boys doing TY (Transition Year) down south, which means a lot of their best players are leaving school at 17 years of age.”
Whilst the group phase was routine for Omagh, now in the last eight, it’s anybody’s competition to win, and the standard will be sky-high.
“Once you get to the knockout stages, and get your mind focused over the Christmas break, you come back looking to put your best foot forward,” said the Omagh boss.
“If you look at the remaining teams, they all have qualities that could lead to them winning the competition. Every team has good players, every team has county minors, and every team is a potential winner.”
As for Omagh’s next challenge, they will be looking towards key players Eoin McElholm and Conor Owens to get over the line, but McNabb listed a number of reasons as to why St Colman’s will be anything but pushovers.
“When we played St Colman’s last year, they were extremely dogged, and most of their key players from last year are still on the team,” he said.
“They have possibly the best midfielder in the entire competition in Senan Carr from Clonduff; they have Aaron O’Neill from Crossmaglen, who was a centre half-forward last year, but has moved to full forward making him the real focal point of the attack, and he scored 1-4 against the Abbey; and another one of the best players in the tournament is their captain, Callum O’Neill, the wing-back from Clan na Gael.
“He was a real thorn in the side of the Abbey.
“All of those boys played last year – Michael Murdock, Odhran Caraher and Cormac O’Reilly too, so they have plenty of big players, who know what this is about. They suffered heartbreak against us, and they’ll be looking to avenge that on Friday night.”