Counsel deserve more credit for an admirable record
Later today (Tuesday) I will venture down to Clonmel to witness the latest attempt by Good Counsel College (New Ross) to improve upon their remarkable record of success since the early 1990s.
And the significance of the venue won't be lost on those who were on the scene when the Barrowsiders first came to prominence, as it was in that very same field that their Senior 'B' footballers made the breakthrough with an All-Ireland final replay victory over St. Colman's from Fermoy in 1993.
Indeed, it's been a happy hunting ground for the super blues as that venue across the road from the local hospital also hosted their Junior 'A' football success against St. Francis of Rochestown in Cork last April.
Today's opponents are St. Brendan's of Killarney and, as an aside, it's worth remembering the last time a team from that famous football nursery in the kingdom took on Wexford opposition in the All-Ireland series.
That was back in 1992 and, wouldn't you know it, the venue was Clonmel. The opposition was different though as St. Brendan's met and defeated St. Peter's in the Senior 'A' football semi-final.
My abiding memory from that game was the magnificent display of Seamus Moynihan for the winners. Just a few months later, straight after his Leaving Cert., he made his Kerry Senior debut and, although Clare shocked them in that year's Munster final, the Glenflesk genius went on to grace fields all over Ireland and was without doubt one of Kerry's greatest footballers of the past 50 years.
Getting back to today, I can only hope that if I witness a similar star in the making, he will be on the Counsel side rather than with the Kerry lads.
It's worth putting what this latest batch of talented teens from the New Ross school have achieved to date into some perspective.
Not alone do they go into this game as reigning champions, they are seeking a double on another front too as the vast majority of the same players guided their hurlers to All-Ireland 'A' success against Midleton C.B.S. down in Carriganore last November.
That's right...today they have the opportunity to be crowned the very best in Ireland for the third time in twelve months. It will be no easy task judging by the hammering St. Brendan's dished out to St. Mary's of Clady from Derry in the semi-final.
I was in Ballinasloe for Counsel's comfortable win over Rice College from Westport on the same day, and I have been fortunate enough to cover most of their main achievements over the years.
Yet, some people in this county don't give them the credit or acknowledgement they so richly deserve, purely because there is normally some Kilkenny involvement on their teams.
I don't see why that should make a difference. After all, the school couldn't be much closer to the border so it's only natural that a youngster from south Kilkenny with an interest in sport would go there instead of making a longer journey to Kilkenny city or Waterford for their second level education. Why should we scoff at that?
It saddens me when Counsel win a big game and the first question I'm asked is: 'how many Kilkenny lads were on the team?'
Rather than in some way begrudging them their success, I think anyone looking to find a winning formula should study the school's approach to both football and hurling and learn from it.
Down through the years I have seen Counsel teams win games they looked dead and buried in, and I attribute a lot of that to an unquenchable spirit that has been cultivated and cherished by mentors and players alike over the years.
Kevin Kehoe and Aidan O'Brien are the two men who have given most to the cause on the sidelines in terms of longevity, while Kilmore native Kevin Bates has been very prominent in more recent times.
Páraic Cullen from Clongeen was involved with the Junior hurlers before Christmas along with Declan Wall of Mullinavat, a past pupil of the school who also managed his club to Kilkenny and Leinster Intermediate titles in 2014.
Good luck to Counsel today and, whatever the outcome, I salute you for the great memories you have given me since 1993, and I look forward to many more to come.