ST PAUL’S Bessbrook coach John Rafferty appeared slightly bemused with the reaction when his team were drawn against Abbey CBS recently in the Danske Bank MacRory Cup quarter-finals at a reception in Belfast.
This was the only one of the four pairings to animate the other coaches, players and media.
“This time last year we were waiting on the MacLarnon draw and very few were taking any notice of us at all,” said Rafferty. “A year has made a huge difference to how others perceive us, and I suppose how we perceive ourselves.”
“However, the way I was looking at it was that whoever we drew would be a huge game for us. As far as I am concerned, the competition starts here. No-one wins the MacRory on what they do before Christmas.”
But the Bessbrook coach had to acknowledge that the St Paul’s boys’ performance in the pre-Christmas league competition had made an impact.
“We have been playing very well and we will need to keep turning out big performances. We want to win this competition naturally and a draw like this will create a huge interest in our area, with boys from the same club teams now in opposition in such a big competition as this.
“There are seven other crafty operators there in the room who are cute enough to talk the opposition up and play their chances down. The draw is made and we have a tough one.
“We played them in a Rannafast Cup semi-final a couple of years ago, the equivalent year groups, and they beat us by a couple of points. So we know they are useful.”
Abbey coach Jody Gormley was playing ‘the crafty operator’ card.
“Their MacLarnon and All-Ireland wins really boosted them and they have been the form team of the league. We couldn’t have got a harder draw. But you don’t get easy draws in the MacRory. I think that it will create huge interest in the Newry and south Armagh area,” he said.
“St Paul’s win over Maghera in the MacCormack Cup means that they are the only team to have beaten this Maghera group through their school careers and that makes them a real test for anyone.”
The other quarter-finals are: St Patrick’s Academy Dungannon v St Macartan’s Monaghan; St Patrick’s Maghera v St Michael’s Enniskillen; and St Colman’s Newry v Omagh CBS.
All will be played on Wednesday, February 6, Friday, February 8 and Saturday, February 9, with full times and venues yet to be confirmed.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter here.