Mixed emotions indeed because Gearóid is a native of Ballyheigue, began his teaching career in the North Kerry school before securing a permanent position in the Offaly college 11 years ago, but he knows the side his bread is buttered and who pays the wages.
“I have a great attachment to Causeway; my father owns a pub in Ballyheigue where I spend most of my free time; my uncle John was principal of the school for 30 years and I taught there for a couple of months before moving up to Banagher.
“I know a savage loves his native shore, but for an hour or so on Saturday, my one thought will be for Banagher to beat Causeway and become All-Ireland champions for the fourth time.”
Banagher College has an excellent tradition at this level. They have won three All-Ireland titles, the last in 1989, lost four, the last in 1990 and a number of past pupils, Martin Hanemy, Hubert Rigney and Padraig Horan went on to become household names with Offaly hurling.
“We are an unusual mix in that because of our close proximity to Galway and Tipperary, we have players involved from all three countries on our team.
“Twelve months ago we lost a junior All-Ireland final to Causeway by four points, and Saturday’s final gives us an opportunity to turn the tables.”
Banagher had shown commendable spirit to reach the final. They were forced to play 13 minutes of the first half of the Leinster final against St Fergal’s with 14 players and the last 20 minutes of the second with 13.
“There is a great healthy rivalry between ourselves and Fergal’s and things didn’t look good for us after we were reduced to 13 players, but bringing our captain Paul Looby to centre back was the key factor,” said Gearóid.
“Both ourselves and Causeway beat Hazelwood College this year to get to the final, but that counts for nothing now. If we are to win, we’ll have to play to our maximum, and even that may not be good enough as Causeway are an exceptional side”.
No school has managed to win the junior and senior All-Ireland vocational titles in the one year, but according to Causeway manager Willie Dowling, “we intend to put that right on Saturday”. The North Kerry school has won the junior title two years in a row which has given them a very experienced senior squad.
“It’s the name of the game,” said Willie. “Success breeds success and I’m hoping we can continue in a winning vein on Saturday. These are great times for Causeway hurling. If I was told 10 years ago we would be in this position today I would have laughed at you.
“The best description of what’s happening right now was given by my colleague John Joe Delaney when he said: it’s like 50 years waiting for a bus and then three arrive together.
“Having so many of our lads on the Kerry Colleges team which took part in this year’s Harty Cup and do so well in that competition, convinced me that we had a very good senior side, so it would be fair to say I’m not too surprised that we are in Saturday’s final.
“What did surprise me this year was the success of the juniors winning the All-Ireland so comprehensively. We have seven of that side on the senior team and while we are a bit on the young side, our hurling has been excellent all through the campaign.
“Playing here in Semple Stadium is going to be a real treat for the lads. They should revel in the conditions, and there won’t be any excuses if we are beaten”.