By Niall Gartland
EXCITEMENT in the corridors of Omagh CBS has reached fever pitch ahead of tomorrow’s Hogan Cup final, and the support hasn’t escaped the attention of team captain Eoin McElholm.
McElholm became the first Omagh CBS skipper to lift the MacRory Cup since 2007 when they got the better of Holy Trinity last month.
Fittingly the Loughmacrory lad produced an outstanding individual performance – his work-rate was through the roof and he chipped in with two crucial points on one of the great days for the Kevlin Road school.
Now he’s hoping to follow in the footsteps of 2007 captain Gareth Haughey once again, this time on Hogan Cup final day in Croke Park against Summerhill of Sligo.
Busloads of spectators are set to descend upon Croke Park, and the support of their fellow pupils has been greatly appreciated by McElholm and the rest of the team.
“In the early rounds the crowds weren’t as big, but the further we’ve progressed, the more people have rowed in behind us. The whole school was behind us for the MacRory Cup final and there’s flags and bunting in the school.
“It’ll be the same on St Patrick’s Day, I’m sure we’ll get the whole works and it’s something that we’re certainly conscious of.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for us. It’s a dream come true to be honest. When you walk through the front door of the school, you’re dreaming of playing in and winning a MacRory Cup, so to take this final step would be unbelievable.”
McElholm has already had experience of playing in Croke Park as part of the Tyrone minor team that reached the All-Ireland final in 2021. Another of his Omagh CBS teammates, Conor Owens, lined out that day as well, and he hopes their experience rubs off on the rest of their playing colleagues.
“We’ve spoken to the players about what Croke Park is like and what to expect. The reality is everyone’s going to be feeling somewhat nervous on the day as it’s such a big final but hopefully the bit of individual experience will help us.
“Beforehand when you see all the fans and how big the stadium is, you feel a bit nervous but when you get your hands on the ball you forget all that and it becomes like any other pitch really.”
While the ‘Brothers’ have gone unbeaten since the outset of their MacRory Cup campaign, they seem to be getting stronger with every game. They produced a performance of real resolve in their MacRory Cup final win against Holy Trinity, before demolishing Hogan Cup holders Naas CBS of Kildare in their All-Ireland semi-final clash a fortnight ago.
McElholm said: “We’ve definitely had a couple of dogfights on the way but we’ve pushed on in the last two games. I think that’s come from the quality of the training, and when you’re carrying that into matches you’re giving yourself a really good chance.”