They have only 320 students.
There is no senior football club to draw their players from and neighbouring school Bishop McEgan College are also competing for students. They lack the tradition of competition heavyweights like Tralee CBS, St Brendan’s (Killarney) and Coláiste Chríost Rí.
Yet De La Salle Macroom have consistently punched above their weight in Corn Uí Mhuirí in recent times. In 2006 a side featuring future Cork seniors Sean Kiely and David Goold acquired the school’s first title at their first attempt against St Flannan’s. Two years ago they came desperately close to another but were defeated by an injury-time point by St Brendan’s (Killarney).
Tomorrow they return to the showpiece for the third time in seven years.
“The longer you are at it, the more you realise that you have to enjoy these days,” admitted team manager Eric Graham.
“We’ve been trying to keep it as low-key as we can with the players It’s been easier for us as they’ve been doing their pre exams over the last few weeks. But it is very satisfying to have reached another final.
“The satisfaction comes from the achievement of the individual group of players. It’s not just a thing that we get them in fifth and sixth year, and then start focusing on football. There is a lot of work put into GAA in the school at all levels and we have great people over these teams. When that comes to fruition at Corn Uí Mhuirí level, and we reach a final, there is a great sense of achievement as we don’t have a huge pick.
“But to be honest that stuff is all really a sideshow. The focus is on winning on Sunday and if we don’t do that, it’ll be desperately disappointing.”
The effort put in by those at the coalface in the school is important but Graham is adamant it is supplemented by the support they receive from the eight clubs who supply players to the current panel. Macroom, who operate at premier intermediate level, intermediate pair Canovee and Aghabullogue, and the five junior clubs of Kilmichael, Kilmurry, Clondrohid, Iveleary and Aghinagh, are all stakeholders in the current De La Salle squad.
“We have huge support from these clubs and it’s the one thing I’ve really noticed over the last few weeks, how many people are interested in Sunday’s final,” said Graham. “Unfortunately the Convent in Macroom are playing in the All-Ireland camogie final tomorrow and that clash means some people can’t attend both games.
“It’s a very passionate football area and those clubs are fantastic to deal with. I know in other schools that they sometimes encounter problems with clubs, but we have none of that which makes our preparations so much easier. At club level there’d be a big rivalry between these clubs in Muskerry competitions but when they combine for De La Salle, they’re all one group. There is a bond between town fellas and the country fellas after a few weeks, with football helping that.”
De La Salle’s aspirations of success have been boosted by the return of defender Sean O’Leary, who missed the semi-final win over Coláiste Chríost Rí with a shoulder injury, but regular full-back Robbie O’Dwyer is still out with a broken leg.
“Sean is good again which certainly helps us,” said Graham. “He shores up the backline and we missed him the last day. But our whole team showed great heart in the semi-final, especially in the second-half when Críost Rí were challenging us very strongly. It hasn’t been an easy campaign, we’ve had to dig out wins the whole way and survive some serious battles.”
Tomorrow’s opponents, Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne, are no strangers to De La Salle. The teams met at the quarter-final stage last year, with the Dingle school emerging victorious and before Christmas, the two current teams played each other in a challenge match.
“It was a good workout for both teams at the time and actually finished in a draw,” recalled Graham.
“They’re the form team that everyone has been going on about all year. From day one they were tipped to win this competition, especially because they’d so many from last year’s team available.
“I went to their semi-final against Tralee and was impressed by them. We must perform. The one thing that sticks in the throat about losing to Brendan’s in the final two years ago is that we never got out of the blocks. It made defeat more difficult to take that we could have given more on the day. The aim is not to repeat that.”
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