Tralee CBS hoping to make it third time lucky

Irrespective of who takes home the silverware from Fitzgerald Stadium Saturday afternoon, the Corn Uí Mhuirí is remaining in Kerry. Indeed, barring Coláiste Chríost Rí’s brief interruption of Kerry dominance in 2011, the Munster colleges' senior football crown has not left the Kingdom in 14 years.

Tralee CBS hoping to make it third time lucky

Irrespective of who takes home the silverware from Fitzgerald Stadium Saturday afternoon, the Corn Uí Mhuirí is remaining in Kerry. Indeed, barring Coláiste Chríost Rí’s brief interruption of Kerry dominance in 2011, the Munster colleges' senior football crown has not left the Kingdom in 14 years.

This period was far, far kinder to St Brendan’s than it was to Tralee CBS.

Yes, both colleges each lost three finals, but where Tralee CBS have not been able to get their hands on the Corn Uí Mhuirí since the spring of 2007, St Brendan’s have won the competition on four occasions since 2008, as well as back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 2016 and 2017.

In the latter of those All-Ireland winning seasons, St Brendan’s thumped Tralee CBS in the Munster decider. Tralee suffered further final agony a year later, at the hands of Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne on that occasion, while it was St Brendan’s who dumped them out at the quarter-final juncture 12 months ago. But while Tralee's near misses of recent years number many, they carry absolutely no relevance with the class of 2020, says joint-manager Tim McMahon.

“The historical stuff doesn’t mean anything to us,” McMahon insists ahead of Saturday's decider at Fitzgerald Stadium (2pm).

“These are a new crop of players who have come through. Only one of them was involved in previous finals. We won’t be looking backward at all. We are looking forward. [To focus on recent finals] is a fairly small sample size in terms of the number of finals that were lost. The school has won the Corn Uí Mhuirí 15 times, which compares quite favourably to other schools.”

Whatever those beaten Tralee teams of 2017 and ‘18 may have been deficient in, the current crop certainly cannot be accused of being mentally weak or lacking any bit of steel or edge.

“The players we have, we feel they would go to hell and back for us on the day,” says fellow joint-manager Mike Tim O’Sullivan.

“We have no fear regarding mental toughness. We have seen it throughout the year. You can go back to the semi-final when the game was in the melting pot, the composure the lads showed did reap the rewards for us. There were no silly shots taken, there was no wild kicking. When we went into extra-time, we dominated the game. Boys were confident in their conditioning and fitness. And that comes from that steely mentality. We know when we go to battle in the final, there’ll be no fear of our fellas.”

The one survivor from the 2017 and 2018 final defeats who McMahon alluded to is full-forward Sean Quilter. Today represents his last shot at securing a Corn Uí Mhuirí medal, his last shot at toppling St Brendan’s in a knockout fixture.

“This is my third attempt trying to beat St Brendan’s at the knockout stage. They are a good team, they have a good tradition. We could have won the group game earlier in the campaign, but the Sem just never gave up. They go to the bitter end. We will have learned from that,” Quilter said.

Unlike the Tralee CBS management, those driving the St Brendan’s bus have no problem harking back to and drawing from previous final disappointments. That’s a lot got to do with the fact that seven of their semi-final starting team featured in the 2019 decider.

“They went so close last year, so they want to get over the line this year. There is a hunger there. As a result, they seem to be bringing the younger fellas with them,” says St Brendan’s manager Gary McGrath.

“You go on a journey and you don’t want the journey to end. That seems to be what is happening with this group. A bit like the 2016 and 2017 campaigns, you start off and it just snowballs. Long may it continue.

“This team has had its tragedies in the past. We lost poor Niall McGillicuddy (a St Brendan’s student who lost his battle with Leukaemia in 2018). A lot of these fellas had to grow up very, very quickly. They have had knocks and they dealt with them in a terrific manner. It grounded them, it has shaped them, and it has made them fine individuals. And they seem to be able to express that on the football field, which is great.”

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