Saturday’s All-Ireland colleges hurling final could be the kick off to a glorious career for any number of players involved in the game, it has been claimed.
Former Kilkenny star, D.J. Carey, winner of five All-Irelands, four National Leagues and nine All-Stars awards during a glittering career, started as a little known player on the colleges scene, but his game took off afterwards.
‘The Dodger’ as he was fondly known, particularly at schools level, played in three colleges finals in 1987, 1988 and 1989. He tasted the tough side of things when losing to St Flannan’s in the first decider after being a sub most of the season before being picked for the final, but he struck gold in the subsequent finals against Midleton CBS and Flannan’s.
“This sort of experience can kick on a young players career massively,” Carey said of the big showdown.
“There will be players who may not be outstanding up to this. I was one of those when I started. Adrian Ronan, Pat O’Neill, Dick Dooley were outstanding in my time. I wasn’t.
“The game, a final like this, is a massive, massive learning curve. It is a massive day out. It is a massive occasion. A youngster can come good on the day, and his career could just take off. The star or stars may not be the lads expected.
“Looking back on everything I did from colleges to senior inter-county hurling, I would love to have soaked in the colleges finals experience much more than I did.
“Lots of hurling people will be there; probably the likes of Brian Cody; Eddie Keher, who goes to all the colleges matches; there will be lots and lots of ex-college, ex-CBS players and pupils there. It promises to be a great hurling day.”
He felt an All-Ireland colleges final was different to any other. The players were going to school, in class with each other every day. In this all Kilkenny final, they will be playing against club colleagues and friends.
“This final is appealing from so many angles I just can’t wait for it,” he added. “It is great for Kilkenny under-age hurling.
Knocking on the door
“Kilkenny CBS have been knocking hard on the door for a long time. Their only win in 1981 is a long time ago. They have beaten St Kieran’s in the championship already, but there is no guarantee even if this is their third final on the trot.
“Whatever, this is a great day for the two schools and a terrific compliment to the work being done in the schools and the clubs who produce the players.
“I am really looking forward to it. The colleges final is always a lovely occasion, and having the first same county final an all Kilkenny affair is wonderful for Kilkenny.
“I wish both teams the best of luck,” he added. “My wish would be that all players get the maximum they can from the game. At the end of the day, the biggest winner will be Kilkenny hurling.”