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March 31, 2014

• Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary School – Br. Edmund Ignatius Rice Cup Final

St Joseph’s, Crossmaglen and opponents Our Lady’s, Belmullet have to head to Ballyshannon at 2pm on Saturday next, April 5, to see who can win the Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools, Br Edmund Ignatius Rice Cup Final at the second attempt. The sides could not be separated a fortnight ago as they shared 1-7 apiece after Extra-time.

On that occasion the windy weather made it a game of two halves and scores were at a premium 3 each in the first half as Belmullet led 1-2 to 0-3 and three more each in the second half that ended 1-5 each. At half-time in extra-time Our Lady’s led by 2 points only for Cross to cancel out those scores to earn a much deserved replay.

Tommy Conroy with 1-2 was the first half star for Belmullet but once Cross dispatched their unsung hero throughout the campaign Sean Og Irwin to do his legendary man marking duties the Kiltane player never raised another flag for the remainder of the game. St Joseph’s management will probably use Sean Og from the outset in those same man marking duties on Saturday. Another poser for the Cross management is whether to start Rory O’Connor who was excellent when he came into goals to free Eoghan McDonnell to the attack where he has made telling differences when switched a couple of times in the current campaign. It has worked well in the past for them so they might decide to go with the tried and tested. A lot could depend on the injury situation and if Conor Traynor, Declan Reel are fit to start.

Midfield saw Eoghan O’Donoghue and Jack Deane shade it over Stephen Morris and Arnus Dzinkeviicius with the Cross boys short of their very best. Indeed as a whole the Ulster champions were a long way short of the expected standards they had set and performed to, to reach the final. An interesting stat from the drawn encounter (to my memory?) Cross never got one free, inside their opponents half in the whole second half, from the referee.

A dry day, a quick sod, and a better standard of refereeing will make a big difference for both sides on Saturday. Coming out of Sligo my feeling was that it was Cross who got out of jail thus leaving it that Belmullet will be the ones feeling that they lost their chance by shooting so many wides. Replays are all about who learns the most and in that respect Our Lady’s have shown more of their hand than their opponents who are capable of much more. The Cross boys will have to get their swift passing running game in place early to counteract their more physical opponents who prefer the direct route but found the back four of McDonnell, Cunningham, Farrelly and Mackin more than a match for what was thrown at them. Tosach maith leath na hoibre will be what’s needed from Cross to get Belmullet on the back foot from the off to see what they are made of as they dictated play and the scoreboard for too long at Markievicz Park.

Another close tight encounter could be the order of the day but there was nothing from Belmullet to make you fear them as being anything special. Having tasted the atmosphere and sampled the occasion the obligatory nerves from this very young Crossmaglen team will have lessened somewhat so that they will be able to up the ante that bit more to take the title home to add to the schools 50 year celebrations.