Holy trinity

2022 MacRory Cup final: St Mary’s and Holy Trinity face off in school decider

The Athletic Grounds in Armagh was packed last weekend and another outstanding crowd is expected for Sunday’s MacRory Cup final between St Mary’s Magherafelt and Holy Trinity Cookstown.

The pinnacle of Ulster Schools’ GAA calendar, the MacRory Cup Final was last held in March 2019 when St Michael’s Enniskillen beat Omagh CBS.

The 2020 title was shared by St Colman’s Newry and St Pat’s Maghera with the decider canceled just days before it was due due to the pandemic.

Covid-19 then forced the cancellation of all competitions until the 2020/21 school year.

Fortunately, last September the Ulster Schools GAA calendar returned and Holy Trinity manager John McKeever said anticipation had been building at the school ahead of their first MacRory Cup final.

“With no school football last year, it was just great to have the teams back when they came back last September,” McKeever said.

“You feel for all the students who failed last year.

John McKeever, director of the Holy Trinity

“It was great to get the girls’ and boys’ teams back on their feet. We are a crazy GAA school and there is a lot of excitement building.

“There’s a big buzz around the school as we approach the final and it’s a great place for us.”

Those sentiments were echoed by St Mary’s boss Kevin Brady, who said he felt sorry for the players who hadn’t played in the final for the past two years.

“It’s nice that maybe we got lucky, but I’m sorry for the teams that had to share it and didn’t get a chance to play in the final,” Brady said.

“Our colleagues at St Pius X College Magherafelt were due to be in the 2020 MacLarnon Cup Final and they had to share it – I’m sorry they didn’t have their big day.

“I knew we were building a good team this year and we are aiming for the final. It will be nice to have a great crowd in Armagh and relive MacRory’s final as we remember it.

St Mary’s, in stark contrast to Holy Trinity, will be in their fifth MacRory Cup final. Brady was actually part of the St Pat’s Maghera team that put St Mary’s to the sword in their first final appearance in 1996.

St Mary’s won the MacRory in 2017 with a six-point win over St Colman’s but lost to St Ronan’s by two points a year later as they narrowly failed to win back-to-back titles.

Their challenge this year is backed by a handful of players who won the 2020 All-Ireland Minor Championship with Derry, which was played out last year.

There’s also a healthy representation of Brady’s native Antrim. New Cargin boss Ronan Devlin is part of a three-man management team at St Mary’s along with Brady and John McElholm of Tyrone.

Cargin also has three players in the squad with Conhuir Johnston, Tom Shivers and Benen Kelly all likely to start in the front line.

Sean Byrne of Portglenone will oppose his new club management of McKeever and Tyrone legend Peter Canavan.

The former All-Ireland winning captain is one of many top coaches at Cookstown and Brady believes that is one of the reasons for Tyrone College’s rise.

“We had heard all year that Holy Trinity had assembled a good team and they could be the strongest ever,” Brady said.

“When you have that, you put all your resources into it and I’m sure they did.

“They have a lot of coaches with real pedigree – people like Kevin O’Boyle de Cargin is a math teacher at the school.

“When you can call on a math teacher like that, it’s a big help.

“They obviously have people like John McKeever, Peter Canavan and Kieran McGeary in school.

“We know they will be very well prepared and have a very strong squad.”

Schools in Tyrone have been going through something of a drought in the MacRory lately. St Pat’s Dungannon and Omagh CBS won six titles (three each) during the 2000s, but both schools have been beaten in the finals in the past decade.

During this time, Holy Trinity have risen through the ranks and will make it to MacRory’s final for the first time on Sunday.

Captain Ruairi McHugh was part of the minor Tyrone side that lost to Meath in last year’s All-Ireland final with Shea Quinn and Shea Lawn also expected to feature prominently in Sunday’s decider.

Holy Trinity captain Ruairi McHugh featured for Tyrone in All-Ireland MFC’s loss to Meath last summer

McKeever hopes the current team can inspire the next generation of MacRory stars at Holy Trinity.

“I’ve been teaching at the school for 13 years, Peter (Canavan) has been teaching for 29,” McKeever said.

“We have won many Ulster titles, Markey Cups and All Ireland Vocational School titles. We made the move to McLarnon football and were delighted to win it four years ago.

“We felt we could switch to MacRory football and have been there for three years.

“We have improved every year. Our goal this year was to reach a semi-final to show our progress and justify our progress. We have overcome this obstacle and we are delighted to be in the final.

“All the clubs in the catchment area are really excited. When you are the underdog and successful, it can inspire the whole school and clubs around us.

“The younger students then look up to these players as role models and they will want to carry on and that’s what it’s all about.”