Omagh CBS braced for defending Hogan champions

By Niall Gartland

OMAGH CBS have attained their primary objective with the capture of a first MacRory Cup title in 16 years, but their joint-manager Diarmaid McNulty says they’ve parked the celebrations ahead of their looming Hogan Cup semi-final clash with Naas CBS.

The Brothers will take on reigning Hogan Cup champions Naas CBS of Kildare at Clones on Saturday, and the challenge couldn’t come much bigger – Naas have won four of the last five Leinster championships so this well-trodden territory for the school.

But Omagh CBS haven’t lost a single championship game this season so they won’t be lacking in confidence either, and Gortin native McNulty sees it as a litmus test for his charges.

“Naas are definitely used to playing on this stage but we’re looking forward to the challenge. It’ll be one hell of a battle but it’s nice to test yourself against the current champions.

“It’ll be a nice yardstick to see where we stand on a national level and to be honest we can’t wait.”

“The MacRory Cup was the goal at the start of the year and to achieve that is fantastic, but it’s like anything in life, when you achieve on goal and you want to reset and take on another. The short turnaround is helpful, it’s a good way for our lads to focus on the task ahead.”

The Kevlin Road school were full value for their MacRory Cup final victory against fellow Tyrone opposition Holy Trinity, Cookstown, nearly a fortnight ago. Rock solid at the back and devastating on the counter-attack, they overcome a sluggish start to run out 0-16 to 0-9 victors. Perhaps the only thing missing from a near-complete performance was a goal, although they did have their chances.

McNulty said: “As a coach you’re always looking for anything to get us over the line. Hitting the back of the net was something I loved to do as a player and I hope we can rectify that in the semi-final.

“But I have to say in terms of our work rate and defensive shape I thought it was a really good performance. It took us a wee while to settle but once we did I thought we were really solid defensively and that allowed us to play good football on the front foot.”

They brought the MacRory Cup back to the school the day after their triumphant victory over Holy Trinity, something which delighted the younger pupils in particular.

“We had a parade of the trophy in the sports hall, and it was nice for our players to see how much it meant for the entire school community. The MacRory team are idols for a lot of the first and second years for example, and it was great for them to see the trophy at first hand.”

McNulty himself won a Hogan Cup as a player with the CBS back in 2007, scoring three points in a one-sided final at Croke Park against Tralee CBS. Adding a second Hogan Cup would be a dream outcome for the school, but he’s also got one eye on the fortunes of St Joseph’s, Donaghmore and Dean Maguirc, Carrickmore, who also won their respective u-19 competitions in Ulster and have big All-Ireland semi-final clashes ahead of them this weekend. While the schools get the plaudits, McNulty says that the feeder clubs across the county are more than deserving of their share in the recognition.

“Winning Ulster titles is a reward for all the work that is going on in the schools, but the schools are only as good as the clubs that produce these players. I think there were about 30 clubs represented in the three schools finals, and you have to say that getting Ulster medals into so many clubs is a great achievement.”

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