By Kieran Lynch
HOLY Trinity College, Cookstown are hoping to reach the MacRory Cup final for the second year in a row, but in order to do so, they must overcome fellow Tyrone school St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon at Carrickmore on Saturday (11.30am).
Cookstown’s quarter-final victory was as dramatic as they come, as John McKeever’s side personified the mantra of never giving up.
Deep in additional time, they trailed St Patrick’s, Maghera 2-5 to 1-5 before Michael McElhatton buried an equalising goal. From there, Ryan Quinn overturned the resulting kick-out and won the game with virtually the last kick.
“We definitely left it late,” said McKeever, reflecting on the win.
“There was very little between the two teams, and we knew going into the game that one score would make the difference, and we’re just thankful that we were on the right side of it. It would have been a difficult one to take for St Pat’s because they played very well on the evening.
“We have a very strong resilience and character within the team and we’ve had to dig out games in injury time before. One thing about this group of players is that they’re never beaten.”
A Tyrone derby awaits in the semi-final, as Holy Trinity will now take on St Patrick’s, Dungannon, and McKeever says that the familiarity between the two schools will add to the buzz, and that his side will hope to have learned their lessons from a group stage defeat against Dungannon earlier in the competition.
“We’re definitely looking forward to it; the schools are quite close to each other, and the boys are all familiar with one another,” he said.
“So, that aspect will probably add more attention to the game. Plus, Dungannon are the only team who have beaten us this year in the MacRory Cup (2-10 to 2-7), in the very first group game. They beat us well that night.
“I know there was only a goal in it, but they were certainly the much better team that evening, so we will need to have learned from that heading into Saturday.”
For Cookstown, the game presents an opportunity to reach back-to-back MacRory Cup finals, and with star players such as McElhatton and Quinn in the forward line, and Ruairi McHugh in midfield now a year older, McKeever believes that this current team may be more developed than they were 12 months ago when they lost out to St Mary’s, Magherafelt in the decider.
“We have seen that development from the players who have stepped up from Year 13 to Year 14,” said the manager.
“That’s down to the coaching that has been done in the school and with their clubs.
“Even further to that, we have 18 players on the panel at the moment who are still in Year 13. So, the experience that those players are getting will stand by them for next year.
“But we’re trying to compete and make progress in the competition and see where it takes us to and getting to a final last year was very pleasing. Now, we’re back in the last four, so who knows what can happen?”