Coach Devlin hails St Mary’s development during lockdown

By Michael McMullan

COACH Ronan Devlin couldn’t believe the change in the players at St Mary’s, Magherafelt when they turned up for the MacRory Cup in September.

He compared it to not seeing a nephew or cousin for a few years and seeing the “shocking change” in them.

“I saw them in the field and couldn’t fathom the size of some of them,” Devlin said.

“In lockdown, these boys don’t look like they played on their PlayStation. They had to run, they had to work out, and they came back completely different.

Devlin credited the team’s progress to the clubs and players themselves working on their own bats.

“I’m not a fan of flogging cubs to get them back into shape,” he continued.

“When we left school two years ago, Tom Shivers was called Little Tom…now he’s 6’1″ but I remember him in first grade and he was a little teddy bear.”

The school’s increased profile since its success in 2017, followed by a final berth the following year, has added to St Mary’s GAA reputation. Devlin points to a large group of first years and a crop of “third and fourth” years that have the potential to sustain their progress through the later stages of the MacRory Cup in years to come.

“I totally think they all came here because of the success three or four years ago,” Devlin said.

“Three out of five finals isn’t bad for a school that doesn’t have a great history (MacRory). It helped the buzz coming from the school.

A belated vocation to the teaching profession, Devlin worked for seven years as a development officer between Tyrone GAA and Cookstown Council, with a mission to coach GAA in primary schools.

Blaine Ryan, Shea Lawn, Shea Quinn and Jack Martin are among the Holy Trinity players lining up this weekend to take advantage of this coaching.

“I could have told you these boys would be brilliant footballers,” Devlin said. “It makes you feel old. I don’t know if the boys remember me or not, the boy who came in with a bag of soccer balls and took them out of the classroom.

This weekend he will be part of the Magherafelt management team aiming to take away their MacRory hopes.

Sara H. Byrd