By Niall Gartland
WHAT a difference a year makes for St Patrick’s Academy vice-captain Sean Hughes, whose free-taking exploits have been pivotal to their run to a first MacRory Cup final appearance in nine years.
Last January St Pat’s were left licking their wounds after a bitterly disappointing semi-final defeat to Holy Trinity, Cookstown, and Hughes says it was incredibly difficult to stomach that they’d missed out on representing their school on MacRory Cup final day.
Defeat was tough to take but it instilled Hughes with an unyielding determination to make amends in his final year at the school and he was at the forefront of their quarter-final and semi-final victories over Patrician Carrickmacross and St Joseph’s, Donaghmore respectively. This time, they wouldn’t fall short on the final furlong, this time it would be different.
The Galbally clubman said: “We got pipped by Holy Trinity last year, and probably shouldn’t have. That feeling after that Holy Trinity game was the worst feeling I have ever had on a football field.
“Whenever the legs were tired last week (against St Joseph’s, Donaghmore), I remembered that feeling, and it got me over the line.
“We’re very resilient, and it’s good going to war with those boys, knowing that we’ll never die and we’ll always be fighting to the end.”
Hughes deputised as captain in their semi-final win against St Joseph’s with Fiachra Nelis out of commission with a broken wrist. It was all in a day’s work for Hughes, who weighed in with eight frees against their Donaghmore-based neighbours.
“We have a team full of leaders, so it’s not really any sort of challenge. In any good team, you need to have a team of 15 leaders and more. That’s the good thing about the team we’ve got at the minute, we’re all leaders.”
Hughes also hailed the impact of their management team. School principal Collie Holmes is joined on the line by Ciaran Gourley and Ciaran Sharkey, who is the school’s GAA Development Officer.
“He (Holmes) has put a lot of emphasis into the football, he takes training sessions, and he’s one of the best coaches in Ireland, he’s a coach with the Tyrone senior team, and it’s great to have him.
“And Mr Gourley, he has won a MacRory, he has won a Hogan, so he knows what it takes to get over the line. He has suffered a lot of hurt over the past few years, with the Academy maybe not living up to the effort that he puts in for us and we hope to go and do him proud.”