St Michael’s show class in ded­i­cat­ing suc­cess to tragic Oisin

Belfast Telegraph - School's Cup - - SCHOOLS’ CUP FINALS 2019 - De­clan Bogue

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.

PACE­MAKER

Team spirit: St Michael’s toast their tro­phy tri­umph

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