Sunday Times Secondary School of the Year 2023

St. Mary's Grammar School

St. Mary's Ladies crowned Ulster Champions

The St. Mary’s Under 20s ladies made school history on 26 January 2023 by defeating Loreto Omagh - last year’s Under-16 All-Ireland winners - in the Ulster Final which was played at the Mid-Ulster Sports Arena, Cookstown.  Despite a scare in the second half, the girls put last year’s disappointment behind them to become the first senior girls’ team in the school’s history to be crowned Ulster champions.   

The Magherafelt ladies got off to a strong start with Niamh O’Donnell slotted over an easy free in the 2nd minute when Aoife Kelly was fouled after a defence splitting run.  It was the first of 4 points for the excellent O’Donnell in the first half who finished the game with 1-4.  Team Captain, Kate Higgins, who missed last year’s final through injury, added a superb long-range point 5 minutes later. The St. Mary’s ladies, however, faced an extremely determined and well-drilled defence and the only other score of the half came from the industrious Caoileann Quinn in the 23rd minute. Rachel Keenan ensured that Omagh’s chances were limited in the first half and a converted free left the score 6-1 at half time. 

St. Mary’s got off to the perfect start with O’Donnell rattling the Omagh net and Leah Stewart settled any nerves she may have had coming off the bench by slotting over a lovely point from play.  It was the turn of the Sarahs to get their name on the score sheet with both Sarah Heron and O’Neill slotting over from play after dazzling individual runs.  This left the score at 1-9 - 0-1 and St. Mary’s firmly in control.  The Magherafelt ladies suffered their first blow of the second half with Amy-Rose Mulligan coming off the field with an ankle injury.  Mulligan proving why she has been called up to the senior Derry squad, the Draperstown local was constantly on the ball and her selfless distribution led to many of St. Mary’s scores.  Loreto proved why they are reigning Under-16 All-Ireland champions and the St. Mary’s defence was left rattled after 3 quick fire goals in six minutes leaving Omagh with only a two-point deficit.  However, driven on from the experience of last year’s final which took a similar turn, the Magherafelt girls turned to their senior players for inspiration.  Higgins grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and her driving runs out of defence eased the pressure.  She was aided by the exceptional Sarah Devlin.  Devlin, who was awarded player of the match, slotted over two points, one from a free which put a stop to the Omagh onslaught.  O’Neill grabbed her second point of the game in the 58th minute to ensure that it was the St. Mary’s girls who were celebrating at the end of the game. Final score St. Mary’s 1-12 Loreto Omagh 3-1.  

Click here for more photos in our media gallery