McGee holds high hopes for Malachy's
THE significance of Down football's roll of honour is not lost on St Malachy's, Castlewellan, coach PJ McGee.
His side are bidding for a third successive All-Ireland Vocational Schools senior football title this afternoon as they take on Clonakilty CC in the curtain-raiser for the Hogan Cup final, in which their county neighbours St Colman's partake.
The last time the Mourne county had such a presence in the final stages of All-Ireland schools competitions was in the 1980s, when Newry Tech ruled over Vocational schools football in Ireland, while St Colman's also enjoyed huge success.
And it came as no coincidence that one of the great Down senior inter-county teams came to the fore in the early 1990s.
Today could be portrayed as a defining moment for the future of football in Down, but McGee flinches at the mention of the term 'new dawn'.
"That's a dangerous statement to make," he says, taking a step backwards.
"You would hope that some of the players from St Colman's and ourselves would go forward to play with the county. The aim is to provide county players for the future. Yes, it's nice to have minors, but you're really looking to provide players who will play for Down seniors in the future."
The schools' success is something which hasn't gone unnoticed throughout Ulster, as McGee (left) explains.
"A few weeks ago before Down played Armagh in the league, they had a parade for the 'show of champions,' as they called it.
"They had all the successful schools from Down this year, a few other colleges won titles at third level as well as ourselves and Colman's, and Adrian McGuckian referred to it as a show of strength, and maybe it was."
Malachy's will need a show of strength this afternoon if they are to complete the hat-trick of All-Ireland titles against a strong Clonakilty side.