Despite a somewhat unimpressive series of results in the group stages before Christmas, St Patrick’s Academy returned in 2015 afresh and went into the knock-out stages full of confidence and belief.
Three terrific displays in the big games saw them progress to their first MacRory Cup decider since 2011, against St Patrick’s College, Cavan.
ST PATRICKS ACADEMY 0-17
ST PATRICK’S ARMAGH 3-5
St Patrick’s Academy began their campaign with a hot and cold performance against St Patrick’s Armagh in Eglish in October.
The Academy were untouchable in the first half, with Cormac O’Hagan in particular posting seven first half points.
Leading by thirteen points going into the final twenty minutes, three Armagh goals in six minutes left the Academy holding on for a three point win at the final whistle
“We were good at the start, and felt we had to win the game,” said half forward Conn Kilpatrick. “A few things happened, a few rows, and it nearly got away from us.”
ST PATRICK’S ACADEMY 0-8
OMAGH CBS 2-15
The side’s next assignment was the Tyrone derby with old foes Omagh CBS.
Played in difficult conditions, St Pat’s were soundly beaten by their Tyrone counterparts, with Omagh dominating in a wind-assisted opening half, and two more goals resigning the Academy to a thirteen point defeat.
Captain Fintan McClure said, “Omagh were pretty much untouchable in the McCormick Cup, they were in great form and full of confidence. Along with Cavan they’ve been the best teams at this age group up through the years.”
ST PATRICK’S ACADEMY 1-13
ST MICHAEL’S LURGAN 1-9
The Killymeal Road men bounced back from the Omagh defeat with a hard fought win of St Michaels Lurgan.
The game hung in the balance until the 57th minute, when Lurgan had a chance to tie the game with a free kick.
However, the attempt tailed wide and the Academy came back up the field and sealed the win with a Michael McKernan goal.
“We were a bit complacent against Lurgan, and we might have thought it was just a case of turning up,” said McClure. “Lurgan really showed a bit of fight and the lads really had to pull it out of the bag. It was a bit of a wake-up call and it brought us down to earth.”
ST PATRICK’S ACADEMY 0-8
ST PATRICK’S MAGHERA 3-8
November came and next up were the holders St Patrick’s Maghera.
The Derry men had begun the competition well and both sides were nip and tuck in the first half before Maghera hit their first major just before the interval.
Maghera powered on after that with two more goals and Academy couldn’t match them as they ran out nine point winners.
“That day we sat back and expected Maghera to come at us,” the captain said. “We were a bit afraid of them, and didn’t believe we could go after them and beat them.
“After that game we realised Maghera were not the same team as before and that helped us in the quarter final against them.”
ST PATRICK’S ACADEMY 1-11
ABBEY CBS 1-12
The final game of the group stage saw the Academy welcome unbeaten Abbey CBS to the new McEntegart Park at Dungannon.
The home team arguably played their best football of the campaign and had opportunities to win the game. However, a missed penalty and spurned goal chances were to be rued as the Dungannon lads came up just short.
The result set up a make or break play-off against neighbours St Mary’s Magherafelt after Christmas.
ST PATRICK’S ACADEMY 3-9
ST MARY’S M’FELT 0-4
The Academy came out after the holidays a team rejuvenated and re-focused.
On a wet night in Mid Ulster Sports Arena they comfortably put St Mary’s to the sword.
They held Magherafelt scoreless in the opening half, and a fantastic Michael McKernan goal was amongst a raft of scores that saw St Patrick’s advance safely to the quarter-finals.
“We knew we had a hard game, but we wanted to prove ourselves and not just win by a couple of points,” said Kilpatrick.
“We wanted to set a marker down for the likes of Maghera, Omagh and Bessbrook. We knew we could play that well if we put our minds to it.”
ST PATRICK’S ACADEMY 2-10
ST PATRICK’S MAGHERA 0-9
St Patrick’s lifted their game up another gear for a rematch with St Patrick’s Maghera.
Seeking revenge for the group stage defeat, Dungannon put in a superb performance to end Maghera’s bid for another MacRory crown.
Resolute defending and some terrific point scoring from O’Hagan and captain Fintan McClure capped an impressive display from the Academy as they marched into the last four.
Kilpatrick remebers that game with fondness.
“They could have came back at us at any time,” he said. “They had a goal chance that just went wide and that could have been the turning point.”
ST PATRICK’S ACADEMY 3-11
ST PAUL’S BESSBROOK 1-10
A showdown with St Paul’s Bessbrook at Armagh’s Athletic grounds would decide who would advance to the St Patrick’s Day decider.
Brimming with confidence and belief, Dungannon were physically dominant from the off and a hat trick of first half goals ended the game as a contest by half time.
They closed out the game in the same comfortable manner as the previous knock out game, and deservedly took their place in the competition.
“Maghera was a big game but this was another test altogether,” said Kilpatrick. “We knew it was going to be a tough test. The one thing that really drove us on was that it was potentially the last time we’d ever play for the Academy.”
McClure added, “We didn’t know much about Bessbrook. We had nothing to prepare us with, an it was a hard one to call. I think we got the tactics right on the day.”