31 Mar 2016

TOUGHEST TEST YET FOR MAGHERA

MASITA HOGAN CUP FINAL (Saturday - 3pm - Croke Park)
TOUGHEST TEST YET FOR MAGHERA

St Patrick’s Maghera v St Brendan’s Killarney
With the exception of the MacRory Final, all of Maghera’s championship tussles this season have been battles.  Abbey, Omagh, Dungannon and Summerhill all offered different challenges but this weekend it goes to a whole new level.
All-Ireland titles are never handed out, the best team always wins in the end and reports coming from the South are that St Brendan’s have a formidable team.
With Kerry winning the last two All-Ireland minor titles it suggests the conveyor belt in the Kingdom is now in overdrive.
‘The Sem’ only have two players from last season’s Kerry minor team.  One is goalkeeper Billy Courtney but ironically the Dr Croke’s man played at midfield in the Hogan Cup semi-final.
The other is attacking half back Dan O’Brien who has been impressive all season for Killarney.
The Kerry men have given very little away this season and have conceded an average of 0-8 in each of their championship games with goalkeeper David Carroll yet to concede a goal.
In the Munster Corn Uí Mhuirí competition Gerry McGrath’s team have been streets ahead of everyone else.  After being stung last season by Chorca Dhuibhne they went on a mission this year.  The Hogan Cup has been their focus since September.
Evan Cronin from Spa was a panelist last year for Jack O’Connor’s Kerry minor team and has bagged three goals to date, 1-3 in the Munster Final followed by 2-3 as they beat the Dublin champions in the Hogan Cup.
David Clifford scored their goal as they ended the dominance of Chorca Dhuibhne in Munster and has scored 1-9 in their last two games. 
Michael Casey and David Shaw have also been key players as ‘The Sem’ romped their way to this weekend’s final.  Shaw is a 6’ 3” target man and Patrick Turner will be aiming to limit his influence.
Another consistent trend through all their games has been wing forward Dara Moynihan and the industry he brings gives them a strong platform to link defence to their dangerous attacking unit.
So far Paul Hughes and Colum Lavery have studied their opponents in great detail and this time they will be again doing their homework.
Shane McGuigan spoke after the win over Summerhill about the excitement this championship run has brought to the school.
“For the past two weeks in school, the MacRory and Hogan football is all that is being talked about. The buzz about the school is unreal and all the teachers are telling us about previous experiences in the Hogan final and the team wanted to make their own memories.”

The Slaughtneil clubman is aware of this week’s test.  “We know the attacking threat St Brendan’s pose as we've found out that in both their provincial final and Hogan Cup semi-final they've won by more than a 15 point margin.”
“I believe they'll bring that traditional Kerry attacking play and we'll have to be well prepared to cope with that. We are coming into the match as underdogs, but we will have our game plan and hopefully get over the line on the day.”
The big question this week surrounds Killarney and the standard of opposition they met along the away.  Have they just not been tested? How will they cope when faced with adversity in a tight game?
Hughes and Lavery won’t have to worry about this aspect of their side’s game.  This Maghera team never know when they are beaten.
In 2013 Maghera put in an exhibition of football in Croke Park and this time around it will take a similar level of effort as they aim to tame the hotly tipped Kerry outfit.
St Patrick’s will hope to have both Keelan Feeney and Conor Glass back in contention to start on Saturday but it’s unlikely that Odhran McKeever will be fit to play a part.
He was taken to Enniskillen hospital with a suspected broken ankle but it has since been diagnosed as ligament damage and this weekend’s final may come too soon for him.
Conor Mulholland, Tiarnan Walsh and Peadar McLaughlin would be in the reckoning for the defensive slot as Maghera finalise their team.
Shane McGuigan, Jack Doherty, Shea Downey, Paddy Quigg and the Kearneys have all played a role in getting to the final.
Oisin McWilliams has chipped in with scores, Conall Darragh’s industry against Omagh and Sean O’Caiside’s heroics against Dungannon. 
Then you have unsung heroes like Paddy McCormick and Conor McAllister in defence who can carry possession through midfield and in one instance McAllister reverted to full back against Dungannon.
The Derry school has never beaten a Kerry team in a final, falling to Chorca Dhuibhne two years ago and a Mike Frank Russell inspired Killorlgin in 1996.
In the only meeting between the two sides, Maghera hammered St Brendan’s in the 1994 semi-final in Portlaoise.
On Saturday it will take an almighty effort to bring home a sixth Hogan Cup and Maghera will need their key players to deliver.  They have not been found wanting so far when the chips were down.
McGuigan still thinks about his Croke Park encounter last summer. “The last run out some of the players had in Croke Park wasn't as good as we hoped, but we are determined to make this time count.”
“Every time you step foot into the Croke Park arena never mind the pitch is something that is extremely exciting, and I believe it's really important to just enjoy the occasion as days and occasions like these don't come along too often.”

St Brendan’s have won 20 Munster titles and 2 Hogan Cups, the last in 1992 when Seamus Moynihan inspired them to victory. 

After securing a 15th MacRory title McGuigan dreams of helping Maghera annex a 6th Hogan. 

“To bring the Hogan cup back to Maghera would be an amazing feeling. To go down in the history books would be special and to be going down in history with people that you're spending nearly every minute of every day with is something different. Winning with your best friends is a feeling that cannot be competed with.”

Getting to finals is only half the job and McGuigan knows the next step will be the toughest so far.  “We know the challenge that awaits us and we must be 100% focused.”

“Coming in as underdogs lets us play with that bit more freedom but the team we are playing are a brilliant side.  Of course we believe that we can win it, and if we didn't believe we wouldn't be here.”


PATH TO FINAL - MAGHERA
MacRory Cup
Play-Off-
St Patrick's Maghera 0-11 Abbey CBS 1-7
Quarter-Final-St Patrick's Maghera 2-8 Omagh CBS 1-9
Semi-Final-St Patrick's Maghera 2-10 St Patrick's Dungannon 1-11
Final – St Patrick’s Maghera 5-7 St Paul’s Bessbrook 1-9
Hogan Cup
Semi-Final –
St Patrick’s Maghera 2-14 Summerhill College Sligo 3-10
PATH TO FINAL – KILLARNEY

Corn Uí Mhuirí (Munster Championship)
Quarter-Final-
St Brendan’s (Killarney) 1-14 PS Chorca Dhuibhne 0-4
Semi-Final-
St Brendan’s Killarney 2-14 St Flannan’s Ennis 0-5
Final – St Brendan’s Killarney 5-21 HS Clonmel 0-7
Hogan Cup
Semi-Final –
St Brendan’s Killarney 4-15 St Benildus Dublin 0-9




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