St Pius X College Magherafelt secured their first Rafferty Cup title on Thursday 26th January after a titanic battle with Abbey Vocational School Donegal. The Donegal school included seven members of the Four Masters minor team that were defeated in the Ulster club final by Dungiven. Having defeated competition favourites St Malachy’s Castlewellan in the semi-final Abbey Vocational entered the final in Celtic Park as favourites.
Oisin Doherty got SPX off to a brilliant start with a point from play on the third minute. Unfortunately for Oisin and SPX this was Oisin’s last contribution to the game due to a recurring hamstring injury. Losing their county minor forward so early was a huge blow for SPX however the Magherafelt team were not to be deterred as they rallied to a six point to one point lead with points from Dylan Rocks, Cormac McTaggart and Cahir scullion. On the 20th minute Abbey responded with a punched goal from star forward Conor McCahill. Following Abbey Vocational’s goal the Donegal side trailed by two points. McCahill added his third point on the 27th minute to make it a one-point game. Following an excellent passage of play between Dylan Rocks, Torrey Cudden and Odhran McKenna, Ballinderry forward Eoin Rocks latched onto a pass and finished a left foot shot over the bar to restore the Magherafelt school’s two point lead. Conor McCahill proved to be a continuous thorn in SPX’s defence and added his fourth point just before half time leaving the half time score 8 points to 1:04.
SPX were obviously shaken at conceding the late first half goal and started the second half very lethargically and with 6 minutes gone in the second half Abbey Vocational school were a point in front thanks to a well taken score by wing forward Eoghan Gallagher. The Donegal side were on the ascendancy and dominating all over the pitch. Abbey will see their period of dominance as wasteful as they kicked several wides at this time however SPX College will point to superb defensive play and teamwork that forced the Abbey players into awkward scoring positions.
Dylan Rocks, Paudraig Donaghy, Zach Gavigan and Ryan McCann then re-established SPX’s dominance around the midfield area. A crucial turnover by captain Ryan McCann and SPX midfielder Zack Gavigan led to fast ball up the left wing that was gathered by wing forward Cody Rocks who placed an excellent pass to Cahir Scullion who hammered the ball into the Abbey Voactional School’s net to give the County Derry school a 4 point lead.
The game concluded with a frantic last ten minutes that saw Abbey Vocational pull back the lead to 2 points. SPX as a team defended superbly with timely interceptions by full backs Paddy Bleeks and Conor McMullan. The full back line was always well assisted by the ever-present Captain Ryan McCann, Torrey Cudden and Odhran Bell. Quality tackling and tenacity was the order of the day for the SPX boys. Odhran McKenna proved a valuable replacement for the injured Oisin Doherty. Not only was he the outlet for the SPX defence but going into the later stages of the game he kicked a crucial point for the Magherafelt boys. The final score of the day was from the lively Eoin Rocks, this score re-established the 3-point lead and put breathing space between the teams. SPX held onto their 3-point lead to secure their first Rafferty Cup. There were great scenes of jubilation as hundreds of SPX College supporters streamed onto Celtic Park to enjoy the celebrations. SPX were joint winners of the McLarnon Cup in 2021. Due to Covid the final with OLSP Knock was not played and the title was shared. SPX will no doubt look to this group for future Ulster success.
Line out: St Pius X College Magherafelt: Ethan Martin; Darragh Jackson, Paddy Bleeks, Conor McMullan; Odhran Bell, Ryan McCann, Torrey Cudden; Zach Gavigan, Padraig Donaghy; Cody Rocks, Oisin Doherty, Dylan Rocks; Eoin Rocks, Cormac McTaggart, Cathal Scullion. Subs: Odhran McKenna for O Doherty (4), Turlough Cartin for Jackson (15), Kian Maynes for McTaggart (41), Michael McCaffrey for McMullan (53).
St Pius X College Magherafelt scorers: Cathal Scullion 1-2; Dylan Rocks 0-4, 3f; Odhran McKenna and Eoin Rocks 0-2; Oisin Doherty 0-1.