St Michael’s show class in dedicating success to tragic Oisin
ST Michael’s of Enniskillen dished out what can only be described as a four-point hammering in defeating Omagh CBS and sweeping their way to a seventh MacRory Cup title.
In doing so, their captain Brandon Horan stood in the stand before raising the trophy and made mention of young Oisin McGrath, the Belcoo youngster (inset) who was killed in a playground incident at the school in 2015 and who would have been on this successful panel by all accounts.
It’s always dangerous to predict future success for a county based on a school’s success, but St Michael’s and Fermanagh has always been a little different.
While Tyrone has schools in Ballygawley, Omagh and Dungannon that compete at this level, all the Fermanagh children who compete in MacRory do so through St Michael’s, it being the one grammar school in the county.
For all that, the die-hard Erne football fans such as BBC commentator Ger Treacy, the instantly recognisable Patsy Tracey of Tracey Concrete, Fr Brian D’Arcy and so on enjoyed a rare occasion of a Fermanagh side getting one over on a Tyrone team. And well they might as they see enough days when football can be hard to take.
It would be no exaggeration to predict that half a dozen of the St Michael’s players here will play senior intercounty football.
A few are already capable of operating at that level now, such was the composure and decision making they executed in the biggest game of their young lives to date.
Operating with two covering defenders, Josh Largo-Ellis assisted by Aichlinn Ó Catháin, they cut off any supply lines to Omagh’s dangerous inside forward Mark Hayes. After a while it became apparent that Omagh would not even try to hit him and were reduced to running the ball instead.
At this, they had limited success, and it wasn’t until corner-back Cormac McBride got his own game going in the second half that the tactic bore fruit.
St Michael’s opened the scoring in the first minute, a Conor Love shot falling short to the back post where Michael Glynn was lurking and, having gathered the ball when it broke, he fisted over. Omagh replied a couple of minutes later with Simon Garrity finishing off a move.
It soon became apparent however that the Enniskillen boys were operating at a different level of pace and energy; Darragh McBrien making the incision and shooting the first of what would turn out to be eight points,
adding his second a minute later.
St Michael’s, managed by former Fermanagh manager Dominic Corrigan, had also the help of Tyrone player Richard Donnelly and former Down star Conor Laverty along the sideline.
With Largo-Ellis pushing forward to add an attacking threat, as well as plugging several gaps defensively, and team captain Brandon Horan catching practically every kickout, they had a platform to allow a tidy forward line do plenty of damage. Tom Keenan’s engine and inventiveness was matched by the finishing of McBrien and Glynn, McBrien’s final two points of the first half a lesson in bravery and direct play.
They were already two points up when Omagh full-back Antoin Fox clipped the heels of Glynn for a St Michael’s penalty. Northern Ireland soccer schoolboy international Glynn took it himself but slipped at the worst time to shank the ball over the bar.
Already ahead 0-11 to 0-3 at the break, they survived the concession of a penalty, excellently converted by Daniel Fullerton following a footblock by Michael’s goalkeeper Sean McNally, which made it 1-5 to 0-11, a gap of just three points despite having controlled affairs.
The Omagh CBS management team of Kieran Donnelly — himself a former pupil of St Michael’s — and Noel Donnelly pushed their players further up into the Enniskillen defence and they began exerting a real influence.
A few careless wides by the St Michael’s attackers either side of half time were beginning to look crucial in the overall context.
Soon after the Fullerton penalty, Sean McDonagh landed another point to leave the gap cut to just two.
It was at this point that the St Michael’s preparations began to show. Quite simply, they were in magnificent condition, evidence of the work carried out by the county board’s own strength and conditioning expert Eoghan Bradley who, just to complicate matters, is a Killyclogher man himself.
Every time McNally needed an outlet for a kickout, he drilled the ball high to Horan, who took it each time with authority, despite being challenged by substitute Brian Conway.
Enniskillen substitute Garvan Quigley notched a point and Largo-Ellis created two thereafter, one for McBrien and one for Conor Love. Another McBrien point gave St Michael’s a six-point cushion.
It was just as well as Sean McDonagh — who was left off the starting team despite being named in the programme — took matters into his own hands by ending some frustrating Omagh build-up play by lacing a shot from distance into the bottom corner of the St Michael’s goal with five minutes of normal time remaining.
Despite having chances to narrow things even further, Omagh’s centre-back Lorcan McBride and Simon Garrity passed up on good opportunities.
The final word went to the prolific McBrien, who converted a free and left the four-point margin in it at the end.
Team spirit: St Michael’s toast their trophy triumph