St Eunan’s are targeting a fifth MacLarnon Cup win when they face Coláistí Inis Eoghain at Armagh’s Athletic Grounds on Monday, 11am.
The Letterkenny school have had sprinklings of talent in their side down the years with Martin Carney starting the 1968 final win in goal before moving out the field, while 1992 All-Ireland winner Paul Carr was a 16-year-old full back in the 1979 success.
Carr’s two sons, Rory and Oisin, are part of St Patrick’s Day panel this year.
It wasn’t until 2000 till St Eunan’s reclaimed the prize, with Colm McFadden - who is now a teacher at the school - driving a panel that included 2012 All-Ireland champions Rory Kavanagh and Neil Gallagher to glory.
Then, in 2007, Michael Murphy took the team to the provincial title in the same year he first represented Donegal seniors.
Neil Gordon was in charge of those last two successes and is once more than man entrusted with the team this season, ably assisted by Glenswilly manager Gary McDaid, while Antoin McFadden and Peter Devine of St Eunan’s - part of the 2007 team - are mentors.
“We’ve had a good build up for the last couple of weeks but are just really looking forward to the game now,” Gordon said.
“But we have to remember that it’s just another game. The pitch’s length and width won’t be much different from any other.
“We’re happy with Armagh as there’s going to be a huge sense of occasion there as the curtain-raiser for the MacRory Cup final. It’s one of the biggest days on the calendar.”
The current crop face into an all-Donegal final, the first since De La Salle from Ballyshannon defeated St Eunan’s at Sean MacCumhaill Park in 1996.
The contemporaries are captained by Conor O’Donnell from St Eunan’s and contain a healthy mix.
In Sean Hume, they ha ve as fine a kicker of placed balls as you could find and the full-forward line also includes Junior Cert student Niall O’Donnell and county U-21 Daire McDaid from Termon.
Cormac Callaghan, who has a RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta SFC winners’ medal as a panellist with Glenswilly last year, joins David Tyrell and Oisin Carr from St Eunan’s on the 45.
Jordan McBride and Naomh Colmcille’s Daniel Clarke are centre-field in front of a back six of Conor Morrison, Darragh McWalters, Conall O’Boyle; Daire McMonagle, Conor O’Donnell and Sean McDonagh.
Sean Patton, the Finn Harps netminder, keeps goal.
This season, they laid their marker down early with a fine 0-14 to 0-6 success over Holy Trinity from Cookstown before a narrow 3-6 to 0-16 loss at Belfast St Mary’s.
St Eunan’s finished out Group D of the competition with a facile 0-12 to 0-2 success against St Pius from Maherafelt in November.
The quarter-final win over St Columb’s from Derry at Celtic Park was a real scrap on a wet and windy night before St Eunan’s enjoyed a fine semi-final win, 4-10 to 0-5, against St Malachy’s from Belfast at Garvahey.
“We played well in the semi-final but for me, the best we played this year was against Cookstown,” Gordon added.
“They were managed by Peter Canavan and had reached the All-Ireland Vocational Schools final only last year.”
Gordon has a few niggles in the lead-up to Armagh. Goalkeeper Patton (back), McDaid (quad muscle), Hume (groin) and Clarke (ankle) should all be in with a chance of playing though.
“We’ve a few knocks but are hopeful of them all clearing up in time for Monday,” Gordon added.
Coláistí Inis Eoghain provide novel opponents and although it’s great for the county to have two teams in a provincial final, Gordon is remaining focused on the job in hand.
“We’re in the final and that’s where we set out to be at the start of every year,” he said. “Coláistí Inis Eoghain haven’t got to where they are by being a bad team and in Darach O’Connor, they have a man who played for Donegal seniors as recently as last Sunday against Meath.
“He has shown just how good he is and I remember when we had Michael Murphy in 2007 and then in the MacRory in 2008, he was a hugely important player.
“John Campbell, Tony McClenaghan, Caolan McGonagle - you name it. They have a lot of good players all over the pitch.”
St Eunan’s panel: Cormac Callaghan, Conor O’Donnell, Dáire Mc Daid, Dáire Mc Monagle, Joseph Gallagher, Niall O’Donnell,Peter O’Malley, Rory Carr, Oisin Shiels, Daniel Gillespie, Michael Miller, Seán Hume, David Tyrell, Conor Morrison, Caolán McDaid, Paddy Doherty, Cormac Cannon, Seán Daffan, Oisin Carr, Seán McDonagh, Shaun Patton, Daniel Clarke, Michael Friel, Caolan Mellett, Connall O’Boyle, Darragh Mc Walters, Ryan Toner, Jordan McBride.