Though originally from Cloughduv in Cork, Mike Leahy is now undeniably a St Brendan’s man, having taught in the Killarney college for 30 years.
In his time there, the school has won seven Corn Uí Mhuirí (Munster Colleges SAFC) titles and today, ‘The Sem’ face Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne at Fitzgerald Stadium (4pm), seeking a record 21st crown.
Leahy has seen famines as well as feasts, however, which means that success is never taken for granted in the famed football nursery.
“We went through a big drought from 1994 until 2008,” he said, “I suppose the finishing of the boarding was a big factor in that.
“We went through a barren period and it took a long while to get back up, though this is our fifth final now since 2005. It has taken a lot of hard work, but as well as that, the club scene is very strong in Killarney.
“Wile lads might be playing against each other one week with their clubs and it’d be very competitive, once they put on a Sem jersey everybody is pulling in the same direction.”
While Leahy admits there were times when he wondered if the glory days would return, Brendan’s were competitive in the Moran (U15) and Frewen (U16½) Cups, and after the Corn Uí Mhuirí drought ended in 2008, another title followed two years later.
Though they were not favourites for the competition this year, the appointment of former Dr Crokes manager Harry O’Neill as boss gave the side an added impetus.
“At the start of the year, we genuinely didn’t know how we’d do,” Leahy said, “we were more hopeful than expectant.
“There had been nobody available on the teaching staff to manage the team, so we approached Harry to take over and he has been a fantastic success.
“He has a great way with the lads, and when you have someone who has been so involved at club level it provides something extra, I suppose the same way Ephie Fitzgerald has done so well with Coláiste Chríost Rí.
“Being involved with the Kerry U21s as a selector, Harry goes to a load of matches and knows the scene in Kerry inside out.”
Today’s game will be the third time for St Brendan’s to lock horns with Corca Dhuibhne this season, having lost to the Dingle school in the O’Sullivan Cup (Kerry Colleges) final after a replay in December.
Leahy expects the disappointment of that defeat – having looked likely winners for much of the drawn game – will drive his team on.
“I think it’ll be a motivating factor. Dingle are a good outfit, they’re very well organised, so we know what to expect, but I think it’ll be a different type of football to the O’Sullivan final, this time of year the weather is better.
“That it’s on in Fitzgerald Stadium too should make it a good spectacle. It’s a footballer’s field and they’re two good teams.”
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