HAMPIONS: the victorious St Catherine’s Under 16 team with the Ulster Schools U16 B trophy after beating Loreto Letterkenny in the final.
DUAL star Caella Casey joined Orchard camogie colleague Leanne Donnelly in lifting an Ulster Schools Cup in her final year as St Catherine’s College’s senior footballers secured their first provincial crown this decade.
Full back for Donnelly’s St Catherine’s camogs, captain Casey showed her versatility as an effective centre half forward in football for the Armagh city school as they beat St Clare’s of Ballyjamesduff 3-7 to 2-7 in the recent Ulster C final.
Cullyhanna ace Casey is among a plethora of St Catherine’s pupils who have claimed more than one Ulster medal this winter with the school’s senior camogs and Under 16 footballers also winning their respective provincial competitions, at B level in both cases. Indeed there are two with a hat-trick of them to their name, with hot Harps prospect Casey Mullan uniquely not only starting both senior finals but winning Player of the Match for the victorious Under 16 footballers and also lining out for the losing Under 16 camogs in their Ulster decider.
Mullan’s clubmate Caoimhe Donnelly, who captained the Under 16 camogs, didn’t get on in the Ulster final for the senior footballers but did start in the subsequent Under 16 decider as she had done for the senior camogs before Christmas. The duo of triple medallists would have been a quartet but for the fact talented Aislinn McMahon and Faye Fitzpatrick, key performers for Crossmaglen in the club’s Armagh Intermediate title triumph last season, have opted out of football at school due to their hectic schedule. McMahon, like Mullan and Caoimhe Donnelly, won All Ireland C Championship camogie medals with Armagh
Under 16s last summer, so there is no shortage of silverware within the St Catherine’s ranks at present.
That is something of a case of feast after famine though for, until this school year, the senior camogs hadn’t won an Ulster B title for nearly three decades and there had been no provincial success in football at senior or Under 16 level since 2009 and a golden generation featuring the likes of Fionnuala McKenna, who now teaches at the school, and Siobhan Mackle.
These triumphs are a real feather in the cap of school coach Ciara Marley, a sister-in-law of St Catherine’s teaching colleague and Armagh ladies captain Caoimhe Morgan, in her first season in charge of the older age group football teams. Hard on the heels of the St Catherine’s senior side winning their Ulster Under 20 C final, the Under 16s recorded an emphatic victory in their Ulster B decider, crushing Letterkenny’s Loreto by the impressive scoreline of 5-17 to 1-5. It was a superb peformance from the entire team, who had the satisfaction of really clicking when it mattered most and they were well rewarded for sticking closely to their manager’s good game plan. Mullan picked up the individual award this time but Tierna McVeigh backed up her performance in the Ulster U20 final while Caoimhe Donnelly, captain Clara Conlan and Clia Creaney, also caught the eye.
The busy schedule for Mrs Marley and her young footballers who line out for both the school’s senior and U16 teams has continued this week with the respective All Ireland semi-finals scheduled for yesterday (Monday) and Thursday, with eight players set to start the two games and a further seven togging out for both. Several of the young guns were among the stars of the Under 20 decider, including Player of the Match McVeigh, fellow defender Aoife Reid, goalkeeper Chloe Kelly and Megan McShane, along with captain Casey herself and Ballyhegan’s Lauren O’Gorman. As well as Mullabrack goalkeeper Kelly, the Armagh Harps trio of centre half back McVeigh, right wing back Emily Druse and No 13 McShane wore the same jerseys in both provincial finals.
Tullysaran dual player Clara Conlon, who played corner back for the senior side, captained the Under 16s from full back, while Aoife Reid from Clan na Gael was in midfield for her own age group team having played wing back in the U20 final. With the eighth player who regularly doubles up in both starting teams, Moy’s Lucy McAlary, ruled out of the U16 decider, the exciting Mullan wore the No 10 jersey on her way to the Player of the Match award in that game, having been deployed at full forward for the seniors.
Apart from Mullan, the only players to start for the St Catherine’s senior team in both codes were the respective captains, Casey and Leanne Donnelly, both Armagh regulars in camogie who have also played at adult level for Ulster while still at school.
Although both are better known for their camogie exploits, Casey showed herself to be a fantastic footballer against Ballyjamesduff and, in spite of only starting playing football for school in her final year, talented all-rounder Donnelly did a good job for manager Marley. Leanne wore the No 15 jersey just as she had done when leading the camogs to their Ulster B title in December, while Casey was flanked in the half forward line by a real leader in McAlary and sixth former Niamh Ruddy of Clan na Gael. Marley’s senior team was completed by Monaghan girl Niamh Fullen, the vice-captain who plays her club football for Truagh Gaels, the other Moy representative Catherine O’Hanlon at corner back and Mullabrack’s Eimear Rice alongside O’Gorman in midfield.
U16 corner backs Aiveen Grew and Aoife Boyle from city clubs Harps and Pearse Og respectively were on the bench for the U20 final along with the latter’s clubmate Nicole Morgan and Eva Lambe, of Tir na nOg. Former Armagh great Paul McGrane’s daughter Aisling, who benched for the seniors, ensured there was a familiar surname wearing the No 8 jersey for the U16s while her highly promising Ballyhegan clubmate Caitlin McCormack was at centre half forward. Multiple medallist Caoimhe Donnelly didn’t get on in the Ulster U20 football final but played full forward for an U16 line-up completed by Clia Creaney. Along with goalkeeper Kelly and Mullan, Creaney was part of the successful Armagh Under 14 team last season captained by Druse, while O’Gorman played for the Orchard county in the 2017 Ulster Minor final with Ruddy an unused sub. Eimear Rice was on the bench for Armagh Minors’ historic Ulster title triumph of 2016, a feat emulated that year by an Orchard Under 16 side skippered by O’Gorman and also featuring McVeigh.
There are no fewer than 13 clubs – including two from Monaghan and Tyrone’s Moy – represented in the St Catherine’s senior panel this season, Harps leading the way with six players, twice as many as Mullabrack, Ballyhegan and Pearse Og.
ST CATHERINE’S COLLEGE (Seniors, Ulster C final): Chloe Kelly; Clara Conlon, Niamh Fullen, Catherine O’Hanlon; Emily Druse, Tierna McVeigh, Aoife Reid; Eimear Rice, Lauren O’Gorman; Lucy McAlary, Caella Casey (capt), Niamh Ruddy; Megan McShane, Casey Mullan, Leanne Donnelly. Subs: Caoimhe Donnelly, Mairead Rice, Sara McKenna, Nicole Morgan, Aisling McGrane, Aoife Boyle, Feithlinn Morgan, Stephanie Lynch, Orlagh McKenna, Eva Lambe, Aiveen Grew, Rosie Donnelly.ST CATHERINE’S COLLEGE (Under 16s, Ulster B final): Chloe Kelly, Aiveen Grew, Clara Conlon (capt), Aoife Boyle; Emily Druse, Tierna McVeigh, Clia Creaney; Aisling McGrane, Aoife Reid; Casey Mullan, Caitlin McCormack, Nicole Morgan; Megan McShane, Caoimhe Donnelly, Eva Lambe. Subs: Nicole Hughes, Natalie Hughes, Leah Gribben, Rosie Donnelly, Ella Reid, Stephanie Fox, Hannah Duffy, Leah Donnelly.