St Brendan’s College go in search of a first Corn Uí Mhuirí crown in six years this afternoon and truth be told, the Killarney nursery has waltzed into the decider.
Of the five hurdles negotiated en-route to the final, the smallest winning margin enjoyed by McGrath’s students was the 10 points they had to spare over St Flannan’s in their second group game. Their average winning margin, meanwhile, stands at 14 points; four-in-a-row champions Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne were hammered 1-14 to 0-4 in the quarter-final, with St Flannan’s put away for a second time by 2-14 to 0-5 in a most one-sided semi-final.
Even the O’Sullivan Cup they captured with nine points to spare.
The concern so for manager Gary McGrath is how his charges will respond if Clonmel are still on their heels turning the bend for home in Mallow.
“What would be our big fear is if we were in a battle with just 10 minutes to go,” remarks McGrath.
“Would we perform with 10 minutes to go if the chips were down? Would we respond? I should sincerely hope that we would.”
Given the light work made of Kerry’s and Cork’s top colleges over the past four months, the Sem’s saving grace has been the squad’s depth of talent. Centre-forward prodigy David Clifford did not start the semi-final owing to injury and yet by half-time McGrath’s charges had established a 2-9 to 0-1 advantage.
“Our biggest tests are any day that we train because there are 32 or 33 lads on the panel and everyone wants to play.
“Our strength in depth has been a real bonus this year. Take Niall Donohue, for example, who wasn’t making the starting team early on in the year, but then got himself onto the Kerry minor panel and has worked very hard to get himself on our team.
“Our A v B training games are very competitive. So you would like to think that while they are not the same as match scenarios, they still are very intense games that should give us a good grounding.
“We’ve also played a number of challenge games against good opposition and they’ve tested us as well.
“No false illusions, says centre-back and team captain Dan O’Brien, have been created as a result of their easy run to today’s fixture in Mallow.
“What happened to us last year was that we were looking at the final hurdle before jumping the second last. We were anticipating having a go at PCD in the final and that led us to taking our eye off the ball when we met Rochestown. This year has been different.
“This year, we have shown that not only are we capable of playing good, attacking football, but if any side wants to go to war with us in the trenches, we are prepared to do battle with them and we know that Clonmel will pose us a serious threat.
“Whether it’s an expansive game or a physical encounter, the lads are ready to go toe-to-toe with their opponents.
“So I certainly do not think that St Brendan’s has any kind of a soft centre and I think that we’re out to prove on Saturday that all those defeats suffered by the teams that have gone before us over the past number of years and the pain that we felt after losing the All-Ireland U16 ½ final last year will be harnessed in a positive way.”