St Killian’s finish the job in style

By Niall Gartland

WHAT a year it’s been for the hurlers of St Killian’s, Garron Tower.

Winning the Mageean Cup, the premier Ulster school’s hurling competition, for the first time in six decades was an incredible achievement in its own right, but they refused to dine out on that title and claimed All-Ireland honours at ‘B’ level last Saturday.

They powered to victory in the Paddy Buggy Cup final with a thumping 4-13 to 0-13 win over Lismore, watched on from the line by joint-managers Padraig McIlwaine and Michael McAllister.

McIlwaine explains that they were determined to push on and see what they could do on the national stage after accounting for their Antrim rivals Cross and Passion in the Mageean Cup decider.

“It’s certainly been a fabulous year for us, we were striving to win the Mageean Cup because we’d lost so many finals down the years.

“We’ve put in a serious effort to get to this stage, building over the last number of years and we were delighted to win the Mageean title.

“There’d been a real buzz leading into that game, two north Antrim teams coming up against each other, both sets of players knew each other inside out and we got over the line and had momentum so we just kept going from there.”

St Killian’s laid the platform for victory with a blistering start with the wind at their backs, racing into a 3-3 to no score lead.

Lethal up front, they can call upon county star Joe McLaughlin, Cormac McKeown, who won the player of the match award, and Oran McCambridge, another player who wreaked havoc throughout.

McAlister said: “We decided to play against the breeze in the semi-final and it worked out well for us. We lost the toss this time and they decided to play against the breeze which changed our plans a bit, we’d hoped to play against it and go in level or in contention at the break.

“So it turned out we had the wind and we got a couple of early scores which gave us the impetus to keep on doing what we’d been doing.

“Our forwards, midfield, defence, everyone was swarming them and they were maybe a bit shell-shocked and we capitalised on that and got a few early goals.

“We had a good lead at half-time and knew that if we kept on tagging on scores it was going to be very difficult for Blackwater to reel us in.

“The plan was to win the second half and that if we kept the scoreboard ticking over it was going to be very difficult for them to turn it round and that’s what we did.”

While the managers get their names up in lights, McIlwaine made sure to mention the contribution of his management team who have played such a pivotal role since the word go.

“Paul McDonnell, Declan McKernan, Michael McAllister, they’ve put in a real shift, they’ve taken that team from the moment they started up again in September right through to St Patrick’s. It’s been a long haul and those boys have been relentless, I couldn’t have done it without them.”

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