Who knows why these things happen. Neat answers abound. Dr Crokes continue to produce stellar youngsters on an industrial scale, but they’ve been an oasis in East Kerry, which hasn’t won a senior county championship since 1999.
Seamus Moynihan coached the division to the county minor title last year, and the Glenflesk legend’s stock as a mentor rises daily and stealthily. Vince Cooper - you may know his brother - is doing lauded work as the GDA in the region. Each is a contributory influence, doubtless, but seven clubs were represented on the St Brendan’s team that went through the gears seamlessly in Tralee on Saturday to retain the Corn Ui Mhuiri crown with 15 points to spare.
This isn’t a single-engined vehicle. Tralee CBS had been rigorously gut-checked over three intense games against Coláiste Chríost Rí in the semi-final but once David Shaw goaled six minutes after the break for the Sem, their opponents knew they were in the wrong weight division.
Sem manager Gary McGrath is well aware the All-Ireland colleges (Hogan Cup) champions are a talented group but he hasn’t been slow to call in reinforcements in the guise of some of last year’s stellar Leaving Certs to bulk up A v B duels with the class of 2017.
“We play a lot of in-house games with the co-operation of the lads who’ve just gone from the school out of last year’s team. We might play 18 against 15 and they are titanic battles. Some of our so-called ‘training sessions’, they talk about Cody’s sessions in Kilkenny, it’s similar, and it gets us up to match speed.”
The Green stood their ground in an engaging first- half on Saturday, employing a sweeper and utilising the height and mobility of full- forward Gearóid Fitzgerald to keep the Sem honest. Tralee were only a point down after 15 minutes and trailed 0-8 to 0-6 at the break. In truth, though, the Killarney lads were just getting started.
Three fast scores on the resumption and Shaw’s goal stretched the gap to six (1-11 to 0-8). But the time midfielder Billy Courtney powered through for the second goal on 44 minutes, the Sem were 2-14 to 0-9 in front. Done and dusted. There’s eight of the Sem squad with the Kerry minors aiming for a fourth All-Ireland in a row this year (interestingly, Tralee CBS has no player in the currrent minor squad), and if the Killarney school regains the Hogan Cup, that will be four successive Kingdom successes in the schools grade too. And it’s all down to the development squads?
“East Kerry development officer, Vince Cooper, is doing unbelievable work, but the clubs in East Kerry are working very hard too,” McGrath explained. “There’s good co-operation between the schools and the clubs, which is of mutual benefit. It is all feeding into the same pot.”
Three Croke Park county minors from last year - Billy Courtney, Dara Moynihan and David Shaw - contributed 2-6 between them, but Firies centre-forward Donnchadh O’Sullivan is a two-footed talent to keep an eye on over the summer. He claimed seven points on Saturday and his movement caused Tralee a lot of difficulties. All in all though, St Brendan’s look exactly what no school team should so early - seasoned. If over-confidence doesn’t up-end them, it will take some haymaker from an opponent to do so.
CBS manager Marc Ó Sé was annoyed with the margin of the defeat but from Tralee’s starting point this season, a provincial final is progress. “They are an exceptional unit, Hogan Cup champions with strength in depth. We wouldn’t have that depth. But our fellas are in the latter stages of the (junior equivalent) Frewen Cup and are Dunloe Cup champions. The Green had a few barren years but we are definitely on the up.”
It was a first final in nine years for Tralee and the likes of Kieran Dwyer, Brandon Patterson, the O’Connors at midfield and tidy scorer, Michael Kelliher will be enhanced by the campaign.
D Shaw (1-4), D O’Sullivan (0-7, 4 frees), B Courtney (1-1), J Griffin, M O’Shea (0-2 each), N Donohue, C Gammell, D Moynihan, B Keane (0-1 each).
M Kelliher (0-4, 3 frees), T. O’Connor (0-2), K Dwyer (free), T Hoare, D Keane, S Quilter, N O’Mahoney (0-1 each).
R Osborne (Legion); L MacMonagle (Dr Crokes), C. O’Donoghue (Glenflesk), S O’Leary (Kilcummin); J Griffin (Dr Crokes), M Potts (Dr Crokes), N Donohue (Firies); B Courtney (Dr Crokes), C Gammell (Legion); D Moynihan (Spa), D. O’Sullivan (Firies), B. Keane (Listry); D Shaw (Dr Crokes), M O’Shea (Dr Crokes), C Flynn (Firies).
M Hartnett (Dr Crokes) for Flynn (44); M Devlin (Legion) for Keane (44); E Cosgrave (Firies) for Donohue (53); M Fitzgerald (Dr Crokes) for Griffin (56); N McCarthy (Spa) for O’Shea (57); D Brosnan (Firies) for MacMonagle (58).
S Foley (Kerins O’Rahilly’s); B Patterson (Austin Stacks), J Myers (John Mitchels); K Dwyer (St Pat’s); T Lynch (St Pat’s), N O’Mahoney (Na Gaskell), J Walsh (Knocknagoshel); J O’Connor (Austin Stacks), T. O’Connor (Ballymacelligott); S Donnellan (Churchill), T Hoare (Kerins O’Rahillys), M Scanlon (Castlergregory); D Keane (Ballymacelligott), G. Fitzgerald (Austin Stacks), M Kelliher (John Mitchels).
S Quilter (Austin Stacks) for Donnellan (41); A Roche (Kerins O’Rahillys) for Scanlon (49); D Fitzmaurice (Austin Stacks) for Kelliher (54); E Greaney (St Pat’s) for J O’Connor (57); S Hamilton (Churchill) for Hoare (58).
E Walsh (Rathmore)