By Michael Corry
St. Ronan’s College have become the first side from Lurgan to reach a Hogan Cup final. A feat made more remarkable given the fact the school only came into existence three years ago.
In 2015, St. Marys girls school, St. Pauls boys and St. Michael’s Grammar amalgamated to form St. Ronan’s much to the dismay of many within the town. However, the success that football has brought this year may well have put any doubts to rest.
A new site for the school is currently under construction meaning classes are split between the three campuses, and because of this they have had to rely on help from GAA clubs in the town for use of their pitches. This is the first time in modern history a school has reached an All-Ireland final without having their own field.
Speaking after their semi-final win over Kerry outfit Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne, joint manager Davy Wilson praised the help of local clubs.
I suppose we’re being seen as the team that’s now in a Hogan final with no grass pitch, but in fact we’ve got lots of grass pitches. The club’s Clan Na Gael, Wolfe Tones, St. Pauls, St. Peters, they’ve all rolled in behind us and made facilities available, and that’s only a couple. There are a lot of others and we are indebted to them all for that.
Alongside Wilson is Mickey Donnelly who guided Tyrone minors to an All-Ireland final in 2013. The management ticket is completed by Collie Fegan, who, with Wilson guided St. Michael’s to two McLarnon cup titles before the amalgamation. So, the side is in very accomplished hands.
Lurgan itself, is traditionally known to be a soccer town due to the success of premier league stars past and present like Neil Lennon, Gerry Taggart and Marc Wilson.
However, the work going on at grassroots level within the town and the surrounding areas like Aghagallon (a small village in Antrim who had 9 players involved) have proved that they can produce star quality.
Wilson elaborated on this: “It’s super for Lurgan, it’s a testament to the work going on in clubs, both in Lurgan and the outskirts, into Aghagallon, Derrytrasna, Derrymacash, out to Portadown and Craigavon. There’s lots of working going in and its proven that it can produce top-level Gaelic footballers”.
See another example of very impressive football from St Ronan's Lurgan in yesterday's Masita GAA All Ireland Hogan Cup semi-final win.. their Final with Rice College Westport will be worth seeing in Croke Park! pic.twitter.com/7sNda7srqC
— PostPrimaryGAA (@PostPrimaryGAA) March 29, 2018
The town has rowed in behind the squad and this hasn’t been lost on the players who want to repay their loyalty.
Rioghan Meehan, one of yesterday’s goal scorers spoke of his delight at the loyalty shown by everyone in the town. “I’ve never seen Lurgan come together like they have now, there always there for us and even gave us a guard of honour after we won the MacRory, it’s great”.
This kind of success has never been seen before on the Gaelic field, with many believing the reason to be that the best players often choose to attend more traditionally successful schools like St. Pat’s Armagh (Andrew Murnin) and St. Colman’s Newry (Diarmuid Marsden). Corner forward, Ruairi McConville feel’s they have changed this view, “People from Lurgan will be coming to St. Ronan’s now, no need to go out to St. Colman’s to play football”.
So, it is the school with no grass pitch who look forward to a game on GAA’s greatest pitch in two weeks’ time. Hoping to bring success to a town that has never before seen the like of it.