The famed Kerry college have won the All-Ireland (Hogan Cup) title only twice — in 1969 with a team that included the legendary John O’Keeffe, and in 1992 with a side backboned by another great, Seamus Moynihan.
Two seasons ago they lost to St Pat’s (Dungannon) in the decider and this afternoon they head to Croke Park bidding to end the famine.
The campaign began in October and manager Gary McGrath insists that a tilt at the title was the furthest thing from his mind when they commenced their Munster journey.
He explained: “You can never afford to look too far ahead with colleges football. Anything can happen along the way, so we set out to take it one game at a time.”
There was danger at ever turn in the province. “At the start of the campaign Tralee CBS and Coláiste na Sceilge were seen as the teams to beat. The Green had beaten us well in the Kerry colleges championship and Na Sceilge beat them in the final. Also the Caherciveen school were the Munster and All-Ireland champions and had a lot of last year’s team available.”
But McGrath’s team came in under the radar to book a provincial final date with DLS Macroom. And it marked a turning point in their season according to the manager.
“I got the first real glimpse of the potential of our team (in the final). After we conceded the late goal which levelled the match, another team would have settled for the draw, but not our lads. They had the confidence and belief that as long as there was time left, that game could be won. They went downfield and scored the winning point in injury time.”
Again they were tested in their All-Ireland semi-final against a fancied St Pat’s of Navan. Again that mental resolve came to the fore. “We surrendered an 11 point lead in that game, but displayed tremendous character in holding our nerve and went on to won the match by six. St Brendan’s have improved in every outing this year which is a very good sign of a team, and we go into this final confident in our own ability. We have no injury worries and I would have no fears of playing in Croke Park.”
Then again having Footballer of the Year, Paul Galvin, on the sideline is another positive for the Kerry outfit.
“Paul (Galvin) has working steadily over the last two weeks on each and every player on what to expect on the day. He has paid meticulous attention to detail and I would expect our lads to be very relaxed on the day.”
St Colman’s wouldn’t lack for All-Ireland winning experience on their sideline either.
Coach Cathal Murray was a member of the Mourne County side which captured Sam Maguire in 1991. And he respects any Kerry side heading to GAA headquarters.
“Kerry teams, no matter what age group, are never easily beaten and if St Brendan’s’ form to date is any guide, then we’re up against it. The MacRory Cup was our main objective at the start of the campaign. We would regard everything else as a bonus.
“St Colman’s have a very good record in the Hogan Cup with six titles (second in the roll of honour behind St Jarlath’s with 12). We have a very hard working bunch of players and you cannot ask any more than that. They have progressed well all season and have done everything we’ve asked of them.
“Down football in on the up again thanks to the excellent work of James McCartan, and that is having a knock on effect. The county’s U21 and minor grades are very good and both ourselves and St Malachy’s hope to build on that with an All-Ireland double.”