By Niall Gartland
SUNDAY is an historic occasion for the ground-breaking boys from Abbey Vocational School as they venture into their first ever MacLarnon Cup final.
This is the ‘B’ competition at Ulster Schools level and the Donegal Town school are set to take on Belfast-based Our Lady’s and St Patrick’s College Knock for the title in the curtain-raiser to the MacRory Cup showdown at the BOX-IT Athletic Grounds (throw-in, 1pm).
Managing the Abbey side is Gaoth Dobhair man Stuart McFadden, who makes no bones about the significance of this game for the school.
“This is our first ever MacLarnon final, it’s the highest level we’ve ever reached. It’s an historic occasion for the school and we’re all really looking forward to it.” The Abbey team are back-boned by members of the Four Masters side that have not only blazed a trail at youth level in Donegal, but came up trumps in the recently held Ulster Minor Championship tournament at St Paul’s.
McFadden said: “We’ve got a decent pick in the school with plenty of lads from the Four Masters team complemented by bodies from Naomh Bríd and St Naul’s. We’ve got a good mix of lads and they’ve been super to work with all year.
“We’ve been making steady strides, this particular team won the Under 14 and-a-half competition back in 2019, myself and Pauric O’Donnell were in charge of that team.
“That was my first year at the school and a lot of progress has been made.
“The school won the Markey Cup a few years ago and the clubs have helped big time in bringing the players along and being helpful to us.”
It’s been a case of baby steps in this year’s competition as the immediate goal was doing well in the group stages.
They’ve built up a head of steam and will be quietly hopeful they can get their hands on the MacLarnon Cup this Sunday.
McFadden said: “Our aim was just to try to get out of the group as last year we didn’t win any games at all. We’d St Eunan’s, Loreto Milford and Carrickmore in the group and we won all three games thankfully.
“You’re in bonus territory after that and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. We got the better of a strong Red High (Downpatrick) team in the semi-finals, we knew they were big and physical but we’ve a good, strong squad and the lads brought everything they’ve done in training into the game so we were very happy with our performance.”
Donegal schools arguably have underachieved at school level and McFadden is mindful that opportunities such as these don’t necessarily come around every year.
“It’s a funny one, as a county we probably should’ve won more.
“It’s nice to be able to get to the final and we’ll go out and give it a good shot and hopefully get over the line.”