By Niall Gartland
DEAN Maguirc manager Gavan McElroy has hailed the commitment and efforts of his players ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final showdown against O’Carolan College of Meath.
The Carrickmore school will have had more than a fortnight to prepare for the match after a historic Markey Cup triumph, whereas their opponent’s Leinster final showdown was only played yesterday (Wednesday).
But whatever happens in Sunday’s Dr Eamonn O’Sullivan Cup semi-final (effectively an All-Ireland semi-final clash at ‘C’ grade), it’s already been a special year for the Dean.
McElroy, who manages the side with Enda Kilpatrick, commented: “We’ve had a few very sore defeats in recent years, so this year we came back very determined to get our hands on the Markey Cup.
“The lads put their shoulders to the wheel and are very committed. We’ve a young team relatively speaking but we always have a couple of very strong seventh year footballers like Michael Rafferty and Ronan Fox, both play for Tyrone u-20s and are college All-Stars.
“They’re all very committed, they train in big numbers whenever we ask. I suppose the snowball started to roll down the hill and it’s been hard to stop.”
The Dean claimed their first ever Markey Cup triumph a fortnight ago with a deserved victory over Coláiste Cholmcille Ballyshannon.
Captaining the side on an emotional night was Michael Rafferty, who’s had an extremely difficult time of it with the passing of his brother John in a collision on the A5 last October.
He’s an injury concern for this weekend after picking up a hamstring strain in the final, but whether he plays or not, he’s a major part of this team.
“Michael’s mother Roisin has taught in the Dean for the last three decades. Our lads voted Michael in as captain, he’s very popular, and it’s great that they all delivered for him. Winning the Markey Cup was a good lift for the family. Roisin started teaching at the Dean the year before I did, and she brought her two lads here from Killyclogher because she believed in the place.”
The bulk of the Dean’s players are from Carrickmore (the only club to have representatives across the three Tyrone clubs that won their respective Ulster Schools titles at u-19 level).
But there’s players spanning the entire catchment area, and McElroy says the school will strongly consider fielding in the MacLarnon Cup next year, the Ulster Schools tournament at ‘B’ level.
“It’s a conversation we’re going to have – because a lot of our boys are fifth year, there’s a strong possibility we will step up. The only difficulty is if some of those lads don’t return to the school, if they go to the tech for example. Stepping up is something myself and Enda will sit down and talk about though.”