D.J. Carey has son on St Kieran's College team
Family links define the GAA in so many ways. Apart from tight-knit communities, families are the glue that keep GAA clubs bound together.
And in Post Primary Schools hurling and football links between clans going down the generations are even more tangible. Once again in the eagerly-awaited Croke Cup final in Thurles tomorrow there are strong bonds to famous players of the past.
This year’s St Kieran’s College team, the defending champions, are the latest bearers of a glorious tradition with sons of two former Kilkenny legends, D.J. Carey and Adrian Ronan, playing on the current side.
D.J. and Adrian won a Croke Cup together with St Kieran’s in 1988 and their sons Mikey and Tommy line out together tomorrow. The unusual aspect of this is that both players perform in defence, with Mikey on the edge of the square and Tommy beside him in the corner!
Adrian Ronan has son on St Kieran's
On the Our Lady's Templemore side, Brian McGrath is their talisman. Brian captained last year's Tipperary minors and his father, Pat, won a colleges title in 1978.
Indeed, Tipperary schools have only won the Croke Cup on a total of three occasions - including that win in 1978 when Templemore CBS saw off St Peter’s College, Wexford 2-11 to 1-4.
In 2009 Thurles CBS beat another Wexford side, Good Counsel, 1-17 to 1-15 and in 2012 Donach O'Donnell's Nenagh CBS side came back from disappointment in the Harty Cup final to come through the back door and beat Kilkenny CBS 3-10 to 2-1.
Tomorrow Our Lady's are up against the giants of the game who have won a record 21 Dr Croke Cups and are chasing an historic four-in-a-row.
Hurling at the college is very much a rite of passage and St Kieran’s have dominated this competition, winning it five times since 2010.
While the four in-a-row has been achieved before - St Flannan’s did it in the mid to late 1940's - St Kieran’s have never managed it although they have been close when they won in three successive years in the late 1980s.
Since 2010 St Kieran’s College have held the Indian sign over Árdscoil Rís, beating them in three finals (2010, 2011 and 2016). They have also held the edge on Kilkenny CBS who they beat in 2014 and a year later they defeated Thurles CBS by three points.
55th Leinster crown
They recently claimed a 55th Leinster colleges crown with another win over Kilkenny CBS and then made light work of St Brigid’s, Loughrea in the All-Ireland semi-final.
The astonishing feat of reaching another final is that only two survivors remain from the 2016 Croke Cup team on the current side. They are hugely significant players, however.
Ballyhale Shamrocks’ Adrian Mullen is simply lethal (he managed 2-9 against St Brigid’s and has been inspired all the way through this campaign). Tullaroan’s Martin Keoghan is the other remaining link to last season and is placed at centre-back.
Last year Liam Smith, who managed St Kieran’s to a three-in-a-row of All-Ireland titles from 2014 to last year, stepped down but Tom Hogan has continued the excellent work.
Meanwhile, Our Lady’s, an amalgamation of two schools Templemore CBS and the Convent of Mercy, merged for educational purposes in 1985. They depend heavily on local clubs to supply their players.
"We owe so much to the clubs that feed players into our school, the likes of Loughmore- Castleiney, J.K. Brackens, part of Drom and Inch, Templederry Kenyons, Clonakenny, Moyne Templetuohy, part of Toomevara, Errill and Killea," says team mentor Noel Fogarty.
"Without them we don't have the playing resources. So we are grateful to all of them."
Fogarty makes no mention of the fact that he scored two goals in the 1978 Harty Cup final, helping to help turn a nine-point deficit into a two-point win.
"We have produced so many great players over the years for Tipperary," Fogarty quips, instead preferring to look to other past stars who walked through the corridors.
"From Bobby and Aidan Ryan, from Pat McGrath to the current Tipp manager, Mick Ryan, we have had so many fine players.
"We became a big player in all Munster and Tipperary colleges’ competitions as the years went on but we had to wait from '78 to this year to win a second Harty Cup final. That is despite having the likes of David Kennedy, the Dunne brothers, Paul Ormond, Noel Morris, Noel and John McGrath, Gearóid Ryan and Colin O'Riordan with us over the years."