All sides embarking on a competition do so with a certain degree of optimism, unfortunately for most a misplaced one.
For this season’s MacRory Cup campaign, St Michael’s would perhaps have launched out back in the autumn with a stronger sense of belief than would have been the case in more recent seasons.
And that optimism has definitely not been misplaced as the side have reached the semi-finals and are there thoroughly on merit.
On their route to the last four the Enniskillen squad have put in some excellent performances though of course it has not been plain sailing all the way, understandable given the combative nature of MacRory football.
This weekend the Drumclay side face into an exceptionally tough looking last four encounter against an opposition that traditionally poses a huge challenge.
St Patrick’s Maghera are one of the really big guns of Ulster college’s football and once again the Derry school have signalled that they are one of top contenders for the silverware.
But St Michael’s, while acutely aware of the threat posed by Maghera, should still be coming into the clash in a positive frame of mind.
Over the years they have chalked up some notable successes against the Derry college, the most recent being a massive title winning effort back in 2012 in a hard fought decider at the Athletic Grounds.
And the Dom Corrigan managed panel can reflect on what has been, so far, an effective campaign, marred by just one setback.
They opened their programme with a drawn tie against St Colman’s, another of the province’s big hitters, reined back in by a late flurry of Newry scores.
But they then went on to deliver a couple of sparkling performances to coast past Abbey CBS and St Patrick’s Dungannon, finishing their section top of the heap, the reward being a MacCormack Cup semi-final.
Here the side were well beaten by an Omagh CBS side who had been recognised as the competition favourites from the outset.
Omagh were to underline their quality by winning the MacCormack and subsequently eased out an impressive quarter-final victory over Colman’s.
However St Michael’s, despite going under to Omagh, could and did take positives from the experience.
Over the opening 20 minutes of that encounter they were much the sharper side and galloped out into five to six points advantage.
They were to be undone in the end by a clutch of goals, Omagh given a massive boost by two goals in swift succession prior to half time and then further lifted by two more on the restart.
But St Michael’s had done enough in this game to indicate that they were not all that far away.
On then to the quarter final knock out assignment, Abbey again the opposition.
For St Michael’s this was always going to be tricky hurdle to surmount.
They had demolished Abbey by a huge margin back in November, but there was no way there was going to be a repeat of that.
And indeed it turned out to be a question of just scrambling over the winning line, a solitary point to spare.
But this was also a game which will have been of great benefit to St Michael’s, a game where they had to dig deep into their reservoir of resolution and commitment.
Perhaps it was inevitable that, given the first romp over Abbey, there was an unconscious hint of complacency.
Abbey however soon disabused St Michael’s of any sense that this game was a foregone conclusion, it was a battle right to the finish, and St Michael’s will be a stronger side because of that.
Mentally hardened St Michael’s come into the Maghera challenge in good shape.
They have a side well laced with quality performers, more or less every member of the panel operating at a high level.
Defensively they are a compact and assured unit. Josh Largo-Elis is an accomplished and pivotal figure in the number six slot, but he is surrounded by rock solid comrades.
In the middle of the park the combination of Brandon Horan and Joe McDade have provided a very effective platform and up front there is an attack which has repeatedly proved its worth.
Especially fleet-footed wing half forwards in Darragh McBrien and Caolan Duffy, slick score-takers in the front line of the attack in Conor Love and Tom Keenan, while centre half forward Micheal Glynn is a key operator, not least with his accurate place kicking.
This semi-final won’t be easy by any manner of means, Maghera are always a formidable opponent.
But St Michael’s have a side that has looked the part on occasion and if they can play to their full potential they can secure another St Patrick’s Day showpiece outing.
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