A whole new ball game as Presentation Brothers aim for the top

“It is a little unusual for a rugby school to put its head above the parapet with soccer.”

A whole new ball game as Presentation Brothers aim for the top

This year, Presentation Brothers College Cork won’t add to its tally of 28 Munster Senior Schools Cups or its haul of 29 Junior Cups.

The rugby season has ended, disappointingly early, for Pres. But today the school’s senior soccer team will run out at Home Farm FC, targeting a first FAI Schools National Senior Cup title.“Unusual, but it wouldn’t be frowned upon,” says Deputy Principal and coach Aiden Twomey, ahead of this afternoon’s final with Carndonagh Community School from Donegal (kick-off 2pm).

Twomey has looked after the school’s soccer teams for 26 years, this year with fellow teacher John Mullarkey. “It’s a rugby school and in first year, everyone is encouraged to play rugby, but never made play. And soccer is available to the lads throughout the six years of school. We enter every competition we can.”

Pres soccer teams have been piling honours and plaudits at all levels in recent years. And last year reached the semi-final of this competition, losing to champions Coláiste Éanna.

But Twomey isn’t the kind of football coach who tries to sell you a project or a grand plan: “You just keep at it. When you have a group of players that are gifted and talented, you mind them. And they do their best for you.”

The fanfare this week around the Mardyke might not quite match those pilgrimages to Musgrave Park or Thomond on bigger rugby days, but soccer is gaining esteem, if not quite parity.

“These guys are not quite seen as heroes. But they have certainly gained respect. And the rugby guys will travel to support them.”

Twomey is ready too to offload credit to the many Cork clubs from which the school borrows players.

“The main difference between the sports is rugby is developed as a school game. But we don’t really make soccer players. We make some. But of the 20 kids on the soccer panel, 17 play with clubs too.”

There is no overlap between the rugby and soccer panels. “I think Declan Kidney’s son was actually the last player to do both. The rugby is just so intense. Their season is over now and there would be one or two capable of playing with the soccer team. But would it be fair to bring them in now? Our answer has to be no. There are more important things than winning.”

There will be one famous Cork soccer name in today’s side. David Barry — son of Dave — has inherited some of Dad’s nous. But last year’s keeper Caoimhín Kelleher has left for Liverpool and the highest tribute Twomey can pay to replacement Eoin O’Sullivan is a colossal presence hasn’t yet been missed.

There is great pride in Kelleher’s achievements but Twomey is as keen to advertise the routes taken by other old boys such as Cork City’s Alan Bennett and Brian Lenihan of Hull.

Both completed their Leaving Certs in the school, before pursuing football dreams.

“We’re always teachers first, coaches second. Combine your sport with academics. If the trial comes, it comes. But get your points.”

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