Masita GAA Post Primary Schools Hogan Cup Final preview
Saturday April 1
Masita GAA All Ireland Post Primary Schools Hogan Cup (Senior A Football) Final
St. Brendan's College, Killarney v St. Peter College, Wexford, Croke Park, 4pm
Brian Malone is in big demand these days.
Having just helped Wexford secure promotion back to Division 3, Malone, a loyal servant to his county, is also co-manager of the St Peter's side who face St Brendan's in this weekend's Hogan Cup final at Croke Park.
It's a hectic time, but Malone wouldn't have it any other way.
"I think when we initially got relegated to Division 4 we thought we would bounce straight back up but we didn't. It's not easy to get out of and even with the games we won this year the margins were very tight in all of them," he says.
"But we are a tight knit group and we stuck at it. We came from behind in a lot of games. There is a small management team of Banty (Seamus McEnaney), Murph (former player David Murphy) and Marty (coach Martin McElkennon).
"Banty likes to keep the circle tight because that way there is more trust within and it's easier to achieve things.
"It's great for the county team to be up a division in the Allianz League but it's also brilliant that St Peter's are in the Hogan Cup final as well. There is a right buzz down here at the moment and it's great to see.
"We have been struggling for underage success in recent years in Gaelic football and, in my opinion, the schools and colleges have been keeping the thing going.
"It brings its own issues - we have so many duel players who are being sought after by club and county minor managers - and most of them are in Leaving Cert year as well - so we really have to look out for our players.
"There have been times when we have said to lads - just come to the match, we don't need you to train. And maybe that has helped us along the way too. But we're on a high. Playing the final will be something else because St Brendan's, well we all know the run that they are on at the moment, but we will give it everything.
"I suppose for a 10 year period or so, Wexford football was on a high; one of the best teams in the land and then the thing dipped. I think we're back on the right track now, there is huge development work being done and I would be positive looking ahead.
"To win a final would be massive but that won't come easy."
Both Hogan Cup finalists are littered with intercounty talent.
St Brendan's, the reigning All Ireland champions, are just fresh from winning their 22nd Corn Ui Mhuiri, and they are playing with finesse and style.
They are clinical in attack and have All-Ireland winning Kerry minors, David Shaw and Billy Courtney will have to be marked closely this afternoon as will Dara Moynihan and centre-forward Donnchadh O'Sullivan.
In beating Claremorris in the Hogan Cup semi-final, 'Brendan's had the advantage of a strong wind in the opening half, but while the Killarney college didn’t exactly take full advantage of the elements, they still showed enough against the elements in the second half to come through.
That just shows the poise and class they have.
A 33rd minute goal from Mark O’Shea, nephew of former Kerry senior and Dr Crokes All-Ireland winning club manager, Pat, gave them a lead they never relinquished but the individual skill of David Shaw, who beat four Claremorris players en route to scoring a fine goal, was the icing on the cake.
Yet, they won't have it all their own way at Croke Park.
St Peter's have Wexford dual minors dotted everywhere around the field and the final promises to be a cracking affair.
In fact, if the game is not a feast of open, attractive football, it will be a puzzle.
With St Peter’s College back from the margins of Post Primary football and enjoying a Leinster championship win for the first time in a quarter of a Century, they will be keen to press on and add more silverware.
Rory O’Connor is one of their main men. In the semi-final, he scored a brilliant 41st minute goal into the wind which proved crucial for them as they withstood a late surge from that gallant St Mary’s side, who only days earlier had landed that MacRory Cup title.
St Peter’s may be more renowned for their hurling exploits, (they have four Croke Cup titles) but there will be a huge hunger associated with seeking a first All-Ireland senior football title and in O'Connor and his cousin, Barry, son of Wexford hurling legend, George, they have stars in both codes too. Cathal Devereux is also a classy player that St Brendan's will have to watch out for today.
Masita GAA All Ireland Post Primary Schools Paddy Drummond Cup (Senior B Football)
St. Ciaran's Ballygawley v Ballinrobe Community School, Croke Park, 2pm
After clinching a maiden Danske Bank MacLarnon Cup title against Our Lady’s, Castleblayney, St Ciaran's Ballygawley are on a high.
Along the way to the Drummond Cup final, Ballygawley have found themselves in a few perilous situations but they have always been able to claw their way back into games - that is mainly because they have forwards who score with ease.
Darragh Canavan, son of former Tyrone star, Peter The Great, is a class apart at this level. He hit six points in the Ulster final and other players like Caoimhin O’Donnell and Pascal Donaghy have also stepped up to the mark as well when Canavan has been tightly-marked.
But, overall, the St Ciaran's forwards have been pretty hard to marshal and that will be the biggest proposition for Ballinrobe CS - stopping that unit.
If they have studied their opponents closely, the Ballinrobe CS management will be all out to stop any decent ball from being sent inside. It's easier said than done.
Still, Ballinrobe have also faced many tough tests this season and have come through to reach the last two.
They are consistent as well - having already won this year's Connacht Senior 'B' League and beaten teams like Presentation Athenry and Roscommon CBS along their way to clinching the Connacht title.
They beat Coachford College in the Drummond Cup semi-final, no mean feat considering Coachford were on a roll after recently winning their first ever Munster Senior 'B' title.
They have class players in Nathan Moran, Tommy Conroy and Evan O'Brien. It should be another entertaining tussle.