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Friday 20 July 2018

Peter's bidding for second Leinster on 25th anniversary

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

On the Line with Alan Aherne

There's no denying that the older one gets, the more the mind harks back to days of yore and, in a sporting context, the big players and teams of the past.

I took a trip down memory lane last Wednesday as I drove to Stradbally in Co. Laois to cover the Top Oil Leinster Schools Senior football 'A' championship semi-final between Good Counsel (New Ross) and Moate Community School.

With St. Peter's facing the Wicklow Schools in St. Patrick's Park on the same day, a first all-Wexford decider in 21 years was a live prospect.

Alas, it didn't work out that way as, while the Summerhill side did advance to the decider, the boys in blue and white came up short against a side hotly fancied for provincial honours by many of their opponents in north Leinster.

I covered four of Counsel's five championship games, and I was told by several of the Scoil Dara (Kilcock) contingent that Moate were the team to beat before their three-game saga ended.

Likewise, a similar view was expressed by the Coláiste Mhuire (Mullingar) crew when they met the Barrowsiders in Athy.

In contrast, I haven't seen any of St. Peter's three matches in their march to the final, but from what I witnessed last Wednesday I don't think they should be travelling to Portlaoise with any trepidation.

Yes, Moate are a very well-drilled side with a strong work ethic and two adept finishers in the corner-forward roles, while the fact that former Galway hurling boss Anthony Cunningham is part of their backroom crew underlines the strong desire of the school authorities to get these players over the line.

Yet, a Counsel outfit without Andy Walsh and Jimmy Sutton, and only able to get 20 minutes out of the injured Seán Nolan, ran them very close, and Moate found it hard to break down their packed defence.

As an aside, the losers have seven repeat Leaving Cert. students who are ineligible for the grade after a bid to alter the age limit, which the school pushed, was lost by just one vote.

I couldn't help thinking how thin the margins are between victory and defeat as I watched one of that group, Mikie Dwyer, kicking five points from play with the Wexford Under-21 footballers against Clare on Saturday.

Before I leave that game in Stradbally, allow me to recall an incident that I certainly never saw before. 'The Examiner' had a two-page spread recently on freak sporting injuries and, if they're updating it at any time, Jamie Myler deserves a special mention.

The Counsel centre-forward called for water from the sideline but was keeping an eye elsewhere at the time. A schoolmate, whose name I won't reveal as it was a complete accident of course, threw in a bottle which - how shall I put this delicately? - connected with Myler's groin area.

It was no laughing matter for the player as he had to be replaced for a few minutes, but the Moate crowd did find it very amusing as he walked John Wayne-style to the sideline.

In fairness, Myler took it all in good spirits, saluting the spectators on the bank when he got a good-natured jeer on his return!

Now all the focus is on St. Peter's who were on the losing side when they met Counsel in the finals of 1995 (after a replay) and 1996. Those were special times for under-age football in the county, but there was great regret when it didn't transfer to the Wexford Minors who bowed out at an early stage in both campaigns to eventual All-Ireland champions Westmeath and Laois respectively.

It would be entirely appropriate if Peter's were to win on the 25th anniversary of their sole previous triumph, when they pipped Portarlington C.B.S. by 1-9 to 1-8 in the 1992 decider in Carlow.

They went on to lose an epic All-Ireland semi-final in Clonmel by 3-10 to 3-8 to a St. Brendan's (Killarney) team inspired by Seamus Moynihan who made his Kerry debut later that summer, only for Clare to stun them in the Munster final during the pre-back door era.

Good luck to Peter's, but what a pity the game is on Friday at 1 p.m. There must be some logical reason, but I think it's a shame that it couldn't be played Saturday or Sunday to give more people a chance to attend, especially past pupils and former players.

Wexford People

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