By Niall Gartland
ST JOSEPH’S, Donaghmore are honing their preparations for their first ever MacLarnon Cup final appearance, and manager Niall Kelly is keen to point out that it’s very much a player-led set-up.
Players like Noah Grimes and captain Ronan Molloy have adorned Donaghmore and Tyrone teams in recent years, so they already know what it takes to prepare for big matches and to ultimately excel in them.
Speaking ahead of Friday night’s final against Rathmore Grammar School of Belfast at the Dub Arena, Kelly was full of praise for the players at his disposal.
“We let the players decide what they would like to do before games, during games, and they have dictated it from the start of the year. So it’s very much player-led, and they know what they like.
“Trust me, you should listen to some of the music before the games, the boom box is going, and I have to leave. But that’s what they enjoy and that’s what gets them motivated.
“This isn’t just in football. In their A-Level subjects they’re very competitive with each other, whether it be in Physics or Chemistry or Science, they’re trying to beat each other.
“We completely trust our players, it’s very much player-led, and we’re there to provide anything they need and help them along the way to prepare for next Friday night.”
There’s been a footballing revolution in the Donaghmore club at underage level, as evidenced by the stack of silverware gobbled up in recent years, but Kelly points out that there are plenty of other clubs represented on the St Joseph’s panel.
“Donaghmore have provided probably half the squad, but you have Galbally there too as well as other clubs. Donaghmore have won the Grade One Minor title, and a few players from Carrickmore have championship medals as well.
“We have people from Dungannon, Cookstown, Clonoe, Brocagh, Kildress, a wide range of students, and the school is getting bigger. It’s a community effort, and we’re just delighted to be here.”
It’s been some journey for the school as a whole. It admitted boys for the first time in September 2003 and it obviously took some time for them to make their mark in the dog-eat-dog world of Ulster Schools’ football, but they’ve made incredible advances and who knows what else they can achieve in the years to come.
“Twenty years ago, in 2003, the first boys entered the school, and it takes ten years before you start fielding teams. And ten years later, we’re in a B Colleges final.
“In terms of the ethos of the school, teachers go above and beyond for the students in our school and the same on the sporting field.
“Our students can aspire to achieve. We have several Tyrone county minors in the squad and we’re going from strength to strength.”
“It’s a massive occasion and there’s a great buzz about the school at the minute.
“This is the first senior team from the school to reach a B Colleges final, a fantastic occasion.”