The school year may only be half over, we’ve compiled our top ten moments of sporting excellence from 2011, in no particular order though. Let’s hope 2012 will be just as exciting.
1. St Colman’s defend their Hogan Cup title
Hogan Cups are not easy won, but winning them back-to-back is a sporting achievement worth recognition. Usually what happens is when a team finally makes the breakthrough they lose the key players the following year. Colman’s lost Niall McParland, Paul Lively, Chris Clarke and Ross McGarry. Yet Cathal Murray’s team still had some classy footballers in Conor Gough and Caolan Mooney. Dungannon were dispatched in the MacRory Cup final and then St Colman’s saw off St Jarlath’s in the Hogan final.
2. Caolan Mooney’s Man of the Match performance in MacRory Cup final
It took two brilliant goals from Mooney to see off St Pat’s Dungannon in this year’s MacRory Cup final away back in March.
Mooney, who has headed off to play Aussie Rules with Collingwood, scored at crucial stages of the game. His first arrived in the opening half and stirred a lethargic Colman’s team into life. Then the second gave them some momentum during the second half. At times during the game it seemed as though Mooney was trying to do much, but without his industry, Colman’s would have struggled.
3. Maghera win All-Ireland O’Keefe Cup
We didn’t expect St Pat’s Maghera to win the Mageean Cup last year, but to follow it up with an All-Ireland win was astounding. The message that this sent out was that in hurling, if you believe, you can achieve. They met Loughrea in the final at the start of April in Pairc Tailteann, Navan. In order to prepare themselves, they were coached by Derry stars Kevin Hinphey, Brian McGilligan and even National Hurling Director Paudie Butler. They won 0-14 to 0-11 and their key scorers were Shane Farren and Tiarnan MacBhloscaidh.
4. St Mary’s end Mageean drought
Three years ago, St Mary’s were favourites to win the Mageean Cup but were undone by Cross and Passion. Most thought it was just a blip, but then Cross and passion retained their title, and last year Maghera became champions. St Mary’s going three years without a Mageean title is like Christmas without a tree, very unusual. So, this year, with Eddie McToal and Tony Austin in charge they embarked on a run this year. McToal said that the school didn’t want to lose another final and they comfortably saw off Cross and Passion.
5. Donegal win Vocational Schools title
Donegal boss John Joe O’Shea’s hurt at having lost three previous Ulster Vocational Schools Intercounty Football finals to Monaghan meant that he was overjoyed when his team beat the same team in the decider. This year, O’Shea’s side hammered Derry in the semi-finals, 4-18 to 0-8, and were comfortable victors over Monaghan in the final, 2-9 to 1-4. This bodes well because the last Donegal team to win the Ulster Vocational title in 2002, included Karl Lacey, Paul Durcan and the McGee brothers on board.
6. Patrick McBrearty’s performance in first All-Ireland clash
Many people outside Donegal may think that Patrick McBrearty, the teenage star of Jim McGuinness’s Donegal team, missed his chance to play in an All-Ireland final. In fact, McBrearty played in two All-Ireland finals; the drawn All-Ireland Intercounty vocationals schools footbal final, and the replay. But it was his performance in the first that remains so memorable. He scored 2-6 in the decider against Cork, as they could not find a way to stop the machine.
7 Holy Trinity win Markey Cup final
Peter Canavan started this year by managing Holy Trinity to an Ulster title. It was only the fourth time that the school had won the competition, in fact their first was only won in 1998. They did the hard work early on in the competition, having beaten St Patrick’s Dungannon already. Dungloe had never won the Markey Cup before, yet they gave the Tyrone boys a real game of it. The Donegal side led by one at half time, but Shea Coney was introduced and sparked a revival that ended with Holy Trinity winning by 1-14 to 0-13.
8. Donegal win All-Ireland voc schools
Having won their first Ulster title since 2002 by breaking the three-year stranglehold that Monaghan had held on the Intercounty Vocational Schools title anyone would have expected Donegal to rest on their laurels but they didn’t. They beat Meath in the All-Ireland semis. Facing a Cork side who were defending their title, and that had two county minors, Donegal drew the first game, though that result was mired in controversy as the reporters thought that Donegal had won. But they won the replay, 1-11 to 0-11, with Patrick McBrearty scoring the winning penalty.
9. St Killian’s Garrontower win Fontenoys cup
St Killian’s Garrontower won their first Fontenoys cup at the start of this month, with a resounding win over St Louis’ Ballymena.
The final score read 4-9 to 1-4, which suggests that these girls have the potential to get even better. Captain Sinead Cosgrove clearly had no nerves as she scored 0-8 (0-4 frees) despite being double marked by the Ballymena girls. The half time score was 2-6 to 0-1 so Ballymena deserve credit for making something of a comeback.
10. St Mary’s CBS qualify for MacRory knockout stages
In 2009, St Mary’s CBGS Belfast were denied a place in the MacRory Cup final by Omagh CBS. It was a sad day for the school because many thought they were the better team. This year, St Mary’s annexed the MacLarnon Cup, B level senior football, beating St Paul’s Bessbrook in the decider. They lost a handful of players from that team but moved up to MacRory Cup football. A defeat against Omagh again sent them into a MacRory Cup play off which they won, and now they look forward to the quarter-finals.