OMAGH CBS can ill-afford a bout of the ‘January Blues’ as they brace themselves for a MacRory Cup quarter-final meeting with aristocrats St Colman’s Newry on Friday night in Belfast. (Queen’s Dub, 7.30pm throw-in).
>body2text<A rejigged schedule has meant a condensed structure for the blue ribbon Ulster Schools competition this season, with the final shifted from its traditional St Patrick’s Day slot to mid-February.
>body2text<The switch has deprived Omagh, like the other remaining contenders, of precious post-Christmas preparation time to brush off the cobwebs ahead of the crunch knockout tie.
>body2text<However given the nightmare scenario last year when the MacRory Cup was cancelled due to Covid, CBS manager Kieran Donnelly is just pleased to see the competition proceed whatever the format.
>body2text<“These players really wanted a competition because they have missed so much football already. It just means that you have to be up and at it very early in January and with all things going on it hasn’t been easy preparation.
>body2text<“In an ideal world you would have loved it mid-February to get three or four weeks of preparation strung together after Christmas but the fact they have condensed the season and brought the MacRory Cup Final forward as well from St Patrick’s Day means you are working with a tighter schedule.
>body2text<“We are just happy though that there is a competition and these lads don’t lose the opportunity to play in the MacRory which would have been a real shame.
>body2text<“They have been through two years of Covid and missing different campaigns, including the MacRory last year, and the previous year with the Rannafast Cup.
>body2text<“So it has been a very frustrating time for these young players and now we come back after Christmas and Covid has hit our camp.
>body2text<“It has meant a very disrupted approach to the quarter-final but I think everybody is in the same boat. A lot of teams will head into this quarter-final not knowing where they are at.”
>body2text<Omagh secured their berth in the last eight courtesy of an impressive 5-7 to 0-5 victory over St Michael’s Enniskillen, when captain Conor McGillion and Paddy McCann bagged two goals each, followed by a 0-11 apiece draw with St Patrick’s Cavan, where Conor Owens top scored with five points.
>body2text<Kieran Donnelly was satisfied with the nature of those two performances prior to Christmas which ensured his young charges progressed in facile fashion to the latter stages.
>body2text<“They were two Championship games more or less, so we had to hit the ground running. We knew we had to win that first one against St Michael’s because being in a group of three there was a nightmare scenario where if you lost that you were going to be really up against it.
>body2text<“The fact we won that game and won it well was a big thing for us. It just meant that we had already qualified with score difference.
>body2text<“It meant we went into the Cavan game knowing that they would have to beat us by eighteen points. They went quite defensive and we didn’t need to win it so we were more or less through already and the match ended in a draw.”
>body2text<The Omagh boss appreciates however that his side will have to up their game against St Colman’s who consistently battle for top honours in schools football-year in year out
>body2text<“They have the tradition and they have the numbers. Like Maghera they are more or less a county side. They are seen as the two big schools over the years. But again over the years every school group tends to be different.
>body2text<“It has been really competitive over the last few years with four or five teams thinking they are in with a chance, but the Magheras and St Colman’s are always competing at the latter stages of the competition.”
>body2text<Donnelly is a busy man these days having also taken the reigns as manager of the Fermanagh senior side, but despite the demands on his time he is enjoying the twin challenges he currently faces.
>body2text<“The way the game has gone these days it is professional no matter what level you are at. At MacRory Cup level a massive amount of work goes into it.
>body2text<“The work load is massive but I am enjoying it.
>body2text<“ I have always enjoyed the schools football, especially in our school, you are always working with good lads. They want to be there and working at this level, it’s the same at inter-county.
>body2text<“They are all players who want to train hard and maximise themselves. It just makes your job easier from that perspective.”
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