Last Friday night marked a landmark occasion in the life of the newly amalgamated St Ronan’s College as they defeated St. Macartan’s Monaghan in very difficult conditions at Emyvale in a MacRory Cup play-off game.
This victory sends the local school through to a MacRory cup quarter-final with St Colman’s Newry. The Newry school which sits on the Armagh/Down border were unbeaten in the league stages pre-Christmas and will start favourites in the last eight game.
St Ronan’s has a disastrous start conceding a goal in the opening minutes but to their credit it didn’t seemed to have any sort of a negative effect on them.
Playing into a stiff wind they controlled the ball for the majority of the first half. Conor McConville replied with two points, one from play and another from a free.
The Lurgan school were finding it difficult to break down the numbers St Macartan’s were committing to defence and with the wind also against them long range points were not really an option. They did have two goal chances, the first when Conor Turbitt made space for himself only to hit the underside of the bar and the second for Aodhan McConville who was put through by Turbitt only for the keeper to push it out for a 45.
Monaghan attacks were constantly thwarted by a resolute defence with Barry McCambridge, Sean McAlinden and James McAlinden impressive in the full back line. Ryan Owens, Pat Branagan and Jack Haddock completed the defence that was to concede only five scores in 60 minutes of championship football. Just on half time Monaghan scored with a free kick to leave two between the sides at half time 0-2 to 1-1.
The first 20 minutes of the second half followed the same pattern with St Ronan’s showing themselves to be the better team, however, this time scores also followed.
Eunan Walsh finished to the net smartly with his left foot to put St Ronan’s ahead for the first time, a lead that they would not lose. When the Monaghan goalkeeper decided to go walkabouts when in possession soon after, his attempt to find a teammate was intercepted by Kevin McAlinden who duly lobbed the keeper from 30m for a fine opportunistic goal. A Conor McConville free followed and it seemed that St Ronan’s would push on and finish this game early but Monaghan responded with two points and entering the final ten minutes St Ronan’s led 2-3 to 1-3.
It was tense at this stage and legs were getting tired but St Ronan’s defence stood firm and when Conor Turbitt flicked to the net to put six between the teams it proved to be a vital score. Monaghan got another point but Turbitt kicked a lovely score after a move that began with another turnover in the Lurgan defence. The referee called for the ball and St Ronan’s had booked a quarter-final spot.
This result represents a major step forward for St Ronan’s College GAA teams and demonstrates that they are moving in the right direction.
In the long term a lot of work lies ahead to establish themselves at this level on a consistent basis. The quality of coaching is second to none and with the facilities available in the new school sure to be state of the art then the structure is in place, exciting times ahead.
In the short term a big step up in the calibre of their opponents awaits in the next round and as such a further improvement is required to meet that challenge.
If nothing else what they will learn in this game is how they measure against one of the competition favourites and who knows, history could repeat itself, in 1985 St Michael’s defeated St Colman’s Newry on their way to a MacRory final appearance that year – dare to dream?
St Ronan’s College: Ryan Conway, Sean McAlinden, Barry McCambridge, James McAlinden, Ryan Owens, Pat Branagan, Jack Haddock, Jack Lenehan, Conor McConville, Conor McDonald, Kevin McAlinden, Odhran Magill, Aodhan McConville, Eunan Walsh, Conor Turbitt.
Subs: Rioghan Meehan for Magill, Shane Russell for McDonald, Jamie Haughey for Owens (blood sub), Ryan Owens for Haughey (reverse blood sub), Odhran Magee for K McAlinden, Adam Loughran for J McAlinden , Jamie Haughey for Walsh, Adam O’Connor, Aidan Mulholland, Eoin Henry ,Niall McCarron , Oliver McConville, Ruairi McConville, Thomas French, Tiarnan McKavanagh