PAURIC O’DONNELL IS well versed in the history and the meaning of the Danske Bank Markey Cup.
A former student at Coláiste na Carraige, the doyens of vocational schools football in Donegal, O’Donnell grew up with the Markey Cup as the aim at the top of the mountain.
O’Donnell, a goalkeeper with his native Naomh Columba, has guided Abbey Vocational School back to the Markey Cup final.
They meet Fermanagh Schools in Wednesday evening’s final at Garvaghey (throw-in 7pm).
It will be the Donegal town school’s third time to grace the Markey final with defeats to Newry College in 1986 and Castlewellan in 1995.
“It’s massive for us,” says O’Donnell in that cool and calm Glencolmcille tone.
“Only one school from Donegal has ever won this. It’s a big occasion for the school and for the lads.
“We have a good bunch here. They won’t get carried away. They’re taking it all in their stride, although we have a few characters who are looking forward to it. These boys are a pleasure to work with.”
The road to now hasn’t been without its blocks for Abbey.
In December, they lost 3-10 to 0-12 against St Columba’s Comprehensive from Glenties in the Donegal Senior Schools final in Letterkenny, but they readied themselves for the provincial road.
Goals by Brendan McCole and Jack Keaney led them to a 2-20 to 1-8 win over Ballybay Community College in the quarter-final.
Keaney was to the fore, scoring 1-5, against Bailieboro Community School in the semi-final, with Daniel Gallagher also netting in a 2-10 to 1-8 triumph.
When the chips have been down, Abbey haven’t been found wanting.
“We will need everyone with the shoulder to the wheel on Wednesday night,” O’Donnell says.
“We’ve learned an awful lot from this run because we wouldn’t always have pulled out tight games when we’ve been under pressure. It’s been so far, so good up to now.
“We are expecting a tough one. The boys are really looking forward to it. We’re excited and there’s a good bit of a build-up happening here in the school. We’re under no illusions about the kind of team we’re playing.
“We haven’t had a look at them but we know how good they are. This is a big, big test for us. We’re up against what is essentially a county vocational schools team. We know what task lies ahead.”
Fermanagh Schools overcame St Columba’s to deny the chance of an all-Donegal final. St Columba’s had led 0-7 to 0-6 at half-time, but Fermanagh turned the tables in the second half to win 0-14 to 0-11, with Jason Flanagan, Conor McGann, Paul O’Reilly, Ryan Morris and Cameron O’Brien among the leading performers.
Abbey aren’t without leading lights either, though. Brendan McCole was a county minor last year while Aaron McCrea, Peadar Mogan and Gavin Mulreaney, the goalkeeper, are members of this year’s Donegal minor squad.
O’Donnell says: “We have a good balanced team. It’ll take a big display from everyone and one or two players won’t win this. It’ll take 20 men putting in everything.
“They’re in a good frame of mind. A few of these boys were beaten in the under-16 county final last year. We were beaten in under-14 level too.
“This is four years in the making so hopefully we can get the performance to get us over the line.”Tags: