Presentation College Athenry hope to claim maiden Croke Cup
By John Harrington
Presentation College Athenry are coming into tomorrow's Croke Cup Final in Croke Park with their eyes wide open.
They know they face a huge challenge in the shape of a St. Kieran’s College team that’s contesting their eight final in a row, but according to team manager and school principal, Cathal Moore, they’re determined to embrace the occasion.
“It’s the place you want to be at the end of the year,” he says. “The All-Ireland is the dream. Getting to Croke Park is a big prize, it's the field of dreams for every young lad.
“They might have been here as spectators before, but none of them have actually played in Croke Park. It's a great privilege to be here, there's a lot of other schools around the country who would love to be here on this day so we feel honoured and we just want to represent Galway and Connacht in the right way in the final.
“It will take until we get here and the game is a few minutes old. Some lads will come to Croke Park and they'll grow and some lads will come and shrink and you just don't know how they're going to react. It's new for them all, but it's a great honour to be here and something to be embraced and look forward to and that's certainly what we'll be telling them.
“We're under no illusions of the challenge that's ahead of us. We're playing against the Kingpins of hurling, St. Kieran's, they've 23 titles and this is their eight Croke Cup in a row.
“They have several players with experience of playing in Croke Park last year which is a big plus. So it's a huge challenge ahead of us but we've had a lot of challenges all year and the lads have faced up to it well. It's going to take until the game starts to see where we are.”
Presentation Athenry have never won the Croke Cup but contested the 2018 and 2019 Finals, both of which they lost to St. Kieran’s. They’re bidding to become only the second Galway school to win the competition.
“Yes, just one title has gone to Galway, in 1995, when Kevin Broderick inspired a team from St Raphael's,” says Moore. “It’s hard to believe that's the only title that has gone west of the Shannon.
“You can't win it unless you're in the final and we're going to keep trying. We'll keep coming back.
“We are conscious it's a formidable challenge and we're going to try to put our best foot forward on the day and hopefully that will be enough. If we can put in the best performance that we can put in and that's good enough, then we'll be satisfied with that.”
Athenry’s progression to this year’s Croke Cup Final is all the more impressive when you consider they haven’t had a pitch of their own to train on throughout the competition.
Instead they’ve had to rely on the generosity of their local clubs, so it’s really been a community as much as a school effort, and Moore believes that will stand to them going forward.
“We're in the process of developing our school pitch and that's the next project after St. Patrick's Day,” says Moore.
“We actually don't have any place to train at the school. Up to now we had the use of a pitch down in the town of Athenry that was owned by the presentation order, but that's no longer available to us.
“So we've really had to go around and beg and borrow in terms of getting it and we're very thankful to the Athenry club for the use of their facilities. 90 per cent of the use of facilities have been through Athenry and we're very thankful to them and their chairperson, Billy Caulfield, and his team who have allowed us access which is one of the reasons why we've made it here.
“We've gotten great cooperation and in recent weeks Craughwell have been very good to us as well with the use of their pitch. You can't train and you can't play unless you have access to pitches so that's been a great help to us.
“It's one of the things we're hoping to develop as a result of this, that support, because it will be up to us as a school community to pay for that new field. We have a lovely green field site that was bought by the board of management with the cooperation of the parents council and parent contributions.
“The Department of Education built a beautiful school on a green field site. We've 21 acres and it's a fine site and there is space for a pitch and that's what we'll be developing this summer.
“So we’re looking forward to that and how much better it would be to look forward to if we could maybe win a Cup on St. Patrick's Day. That would be a great lift for it.”
Friday, March 2017
Masita GAA Post Primary Schools Croke Cup (Senior Hurling 'A') Final
St. Kieran's College, Kilkenny v Presentation College, Athenry, Croke Park, 3.00pm