THE Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Footballer of the Year Iarlaith Donaghy found the past week very challenging and says his award announced on Thursday evening gave his whole family a huge lift.
His uncle Ciarán McShane from Kilrea was killed in an early morning road accident in Co Louth on his way to work as a plumber in Dublin on Monday 22nd. Ciarán’s funeral Mass took place on Sunday.
“I feel that Ciarán had a big say in the number of votes I got for this award. I know that he voted for me, but a big number of his friends told me over the weekend that he had got them to vote as well.
“Those votes take on an added significance now and I think I will always think of Ciarán when I see the award.”
Iarlaith picked up the February Player of the Month award after leading St Pius X Magherafelt through to the final of Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup. This season’s five monthly award winners then went against each other in an online poll run over the past couple of weeks facilitated by the Irish News.
The St Pius X captain was also pleased to hear over the weekend that the MacLarnon final against Our Lady’s and St Patrick’s Knock can be played in the first half of October.
“I have played MacLarnon football for four years now and the first of those years was the closest we came to reaching a final when a dogged Castleblayney team beat us in the semi-finals.
“That was a good team, but the lesson I took from that campaign is that you have to work very hard in training and from first to last whistle to succeed at MacLarnon. Having good players isn’t enough.
“This year we have good players but we also work hard and I was really pleased we qualified for the final.
“I would love to see the game played and the competition completed. When you read articles in recent weeks about the 2001 MacRory final that wasn’t played because of Foot and Mouth, there is a degree of regret from all those players.
“This announcement gives us something to look forward to now.”
The Lissan clubman has completed his studies in St Pius X and was hoping to start a Civil Engineering apprenticeship over the next couple of months.
“I think that COVID-19 has cut down my chances of getting in anywhere. Firms are just not taking on anyone at the moment. I have the option though of taking up an offer of a course in UUJ and that might be where I will be when the MacLarnon final comes around.”
THE Danske Bank Ulster Schools’ Hurler of the Year award has been a boost for 13 year old Calum McIlwaine.
The Year 9 student in St Killian’s College in Garron Tower had just begun training for the Gallagher Cup when the lockdown terminated all activity for the rest of the year.
“We won the MacNamee title last year and that means that we would have been pretty strong contenders for the Gallagher Cup this year. We had a few training sessions done and the competition would have been starting at the end of March.”
In addition Calum has missed out on his final year in Féile and again his club Oisin’s Glenariffe would have fancied their chances there.
“We have lost the last two north Antrim finals to Loughgiel and we were pretty strong at under 12 a couple of years ago. So we were really looking forward to the club season.”
Calum initially picked up a monthly award for his performances in captaining St Killian’s through the MacNamee Cup competition back in October. They lost a derby final to Cross and Passion Ballycastle.
“I was gutted after losing the final because we were leading at half time and were in with a chance right to the end. Probably the better team won though. Then I was surprised a few weeks later when I found out I was getting the monthly award. It isn’t the same as winning with your team, but it gave me a lift alright.”
Calum already had a MacNamee medal from last year, while his older brother Patrick also won the same medal a couple of years earlier and his father Pádraig was also a MacNamee medallist almost three decades ago.
Pádraig teaches in the school and was in charge of the MacNamee team earlier in the year.
“I think the monthly awards are very fair. We coaches have to nominate a player from the opposing side and that means there is no bias involved. After that a decision is made on all the nominations that month.
“So we are very appreciative of the other coaches who nominated Calum in October and then of course all the monthly award winners were put into the mix for Player of the Year which went to an online vote in conjunction with the Irish News.
“I think the lockdown actually helped boost Calum’s vote, because everyone around here has been spending more time on social media sites. His grandfather actually invested in his first ever smart phone over the past few weeks and the deciding factor was that he would be able to register a vote for Calum.”
“Calum was out at under 16 club training last Thursday evening when someone called across the pitch that he had won and a lot of people have been in touch since with congratulations.”