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What do coaches think of the MacRory Cup format?

Five MacRory cup coaches have explained the positives and negatives of the competition’s format, as the future of how it is played is in doubt

Finbar O’Reilly

(St Patrick’s Cavan)

The MacRory has had the same format for a number of years – group stages in autumn, knockout post Christmas – what are the positives of this format?

The positives of this format are that it offers players the opportunity to play competitive games and train at a high level from Autumn right through to Spring. (FebruaryMarch).

Many players are often out of club football in October and November and this format provides continued participation at a high level.

What are the negatives of this format ?

Starting the MacRory cup in Autumn often leads to a heavy load on players especially in the months of September and October due to club commitments.

Almost all players at MacRory level are playing club championship at either minor or senior level during these months. This time of the year is prime time for the club season, and it should be the sole focus for players.

Teams that qualify for the quarter final stages are left with a ten-week lay off between the final group stage game and date of quarter final. This is way too long of a lay off with no competitive action.

Should the format continue in this format, and why?

If a team is lucky enough to go all the way to a MacRory final, they will have been together as a group, trained and prepared for up to 6 months, and will have played six or seven competitive games over the course of that time. I feel this format takes too long to play off the competition.

What are the alternatives?

Play the MacRory group stages in January (threefour games)

Play the knockouts in February and the Finals in March if the schools GAA calender allows.

(St. Patrick’s day), A 1012 week festival of top class schools football. This is the prime time for schools football. No distraction from clubs or county teams.

David Wilson

(St Michael’s Lurgan)

The MacRory has had the same format for a number of years – group stages in autumn, knockout post Christmas – what are the positives of this format?

The positives would always have been that everyone is guaranteed football post Christmas and schools had an opportunity to work with squads over an extended period.

What are the negatives?

I suppose if teams are struggling it kind of delays the inevitable. However, the MacRory is a special competition and lads look forward to playing it from the moment they step into the school so it’s tough if that experience lasts only a few weeks.

Should the format continue in this format, and why?

In an ideal world I would say yes,. However, with Covid and now the earlier staging of the Hogan Cup final also coming at us then it will impact on the schedule I’d say.

What are the alternatives?

I would always like the league format retained and guarantee lads a minimum three games with knockout stages thereafter.

The fluctuating numbers entering MacRory likely make it difficult to plan for a solid format but my take would always be to maximise games for the lads who have dreamt of playing this for six or seven years!

David McCague

(FORMER MACRORY COACH)

The MacRory has had the same format for a number of years – group stages in autumn, knockout post Christmas – what are the positives of this format, what are the negatives and should it continue in its current format?

I loved the Mac Rory Cup in its traditional format and regret that the games moved away from their Saturday morning fixtures. There was a fantastic sense of occasion about these games and it gave the school community a focal point at the weekends.

I like the traditional format we have now with the group stages taking place in the Autumn and the knock out phase after Christmas.

During my time coaching MacRory teams we would have taken that period between the group stages and the knockout phase as a key development period – technically tactically, physically but more significantly personally.

Players matured during this period and learned the value of commitment and connectedness. It was an enormous commitment from teachers but in terms of the personal development of alot of young men it was time well spent.

Even the weather conditions of this time of year fed into that almost spartan like preparation. I love that and I think it is very formative for the young men who commit to it.

The drawback is the gap between games obviously but again if that time is used well it can enrich the player experience of colleges football and ultimately that is the role of a school – to provide learning opportunities for their students.

Kevin Brady

(St Mary’s Magherafelt)

The MacRory has had the same format for a number of years – group stages in autumn, knockout post Christmas – what are the positives of this format? What are the negatives, and should it continue this way?

No one is certain what format the MacRory will take this year. This year we’ve been told it starts in November and that everyone is guaranteed two games. I believe that going forward and Covid aside the date for the Macrory final may have to change anyway as the competition is being condensed and the Hogan final is going to be earlier on the year. Ulster schools is reluctant obviously to give up St Paddy’s day with live tv coverage etc but it looks like they will have no option. It is possible that the MacRory final will be in February I think maybe from 2023 onwards. It is all to do with a clash with countyu20 etc but this will all come from Croke Park and we will have no option.

I liked the old format of group stages etc and a St Paddy’s day final. Playing a final at end of January or in February I feel demeans the competition and the weather will be terrible etc

Ciaran Gourley

(St Patrick’s Dungannon)

The MacRory has had the same format for a number of years – group stages in autumn, knockout post Christmas – what are the positives of this format?

The positives are that it gives you time to work on getting your team together. It gives the competition prestige and it gets good media coverage as there isn’t many other competitions taking place.

St Patrick’s day is associated with MacRory Final and BBC live coverage. It isn’t normally affected by club or county fixtures. It als helps that the players can focus on school work which is not always the case.

What are the negatives?

The competition loses some momentum between group and knockout stages, as there are normally no competitive games in December and part of January. However, part of that time is to allow for All star trials. Weather is normally poor but not much we can do about that.

What are the alternatives?

I think Croke Park have already stated that the Hogan Cup needs to completed by St Patrick’s day so the MacRory final will be earlier. This year will see the competition run over a shorter time.

Competition will still be run between November to March and a format that provides at least four or five competitive games is the minimum requirement. Ulster Schools do try the best to provide that.

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