Killarney look to end Ulster Hogan Cup hoodoo
ON the last two occasions St Brendan’s, Killarney appeared in a Hogan Cup final, Ulster opposition was their undoing.
Gary McGrath, who takes charge of the Kerry school in tomorrow’s decider against more northern opposition – St Patrick’s, Maghera – was also manager for those previous losses to St Patrick’s, Dungannon in Portlaoise 2008 and St Colman’s, Newry 2010.
He is anxious to end not only the school’s 24-year wait for a third Hogan Cup but also an Ulster jinx for the Killarney school.
“I’d like to think that we have learned from those losses,” he said.
“It’s different than losing a final with either a club or an inter-county team where you can maybe go back to a final in the near future and try to correct what went wrong that time.
“Here you are dealing with players who weren’t involved in those defeats and a lot of the things you try and change are more logistical in terms of what you do in the run-up to the match.”
1969 and 1992 are the two occasions the Killarney school colleges claimed football’s biggest honour.
However, Pobalscoil Corcha Dhuibhne’s back-to-back successes in the competition have increased the pressure on ‘the Sem’ to keep Kerry’s good run in the Hogan Cup going.
Seamus Moynihan, Barry O’Shea and Killian Burns are the most famous graduates from the 1992 winning side, while the 2008 team that lost to Dungannon contained present Kerry seniors James O’Donoghue, Fionn Fitzgerald, Jonathan Lyne and Brian Kelly.
The march to the final has been pretty seamless for St Brendan’s, 13 points being the closest anyone has come to them since they reached the knockout stages in Munster.
A 29-point win over CBS High School, Clonmel in the provincial decider and an 18-point win over Dublin side St Benildus’ in the Hogan Cup semi-final has heightened expectations of the side’s chances in Croke Park tomorrow.
McGrath says the internal competition for places in the side is the one thing stopping complacency seeping into their ranks.
“There are times when we are playing A versus B games that we genuinely have had to pull the players back from each other such has been the competitiveness of those games,” he said.
“From a coaching point of view you have to be very happy with where we are in terms of the players following through on what we are telling them.”
With the way the fixtures fell, St Brendan’s had already booked their Hogan final spot and were able to see Maghera in action twice.
McGrath feels he learned more by being physically present in Enniskillen for the Hogan Cup semi-final win over Summerhill, compared to what he saw watching the MacRory Cup final on television on St Patrick’s Day.
“Seeing a game in person is much better I find because you are only seeing what the cameras show you on TV,” he said.
“Watching the Ulster final you would think Maghera are a lot like ourselves in the way they beat Bessbrook but we learned a lot more about them in Enniskillen, particularly in coming from behind like they did against Summerhill.
“They certainly seem up for any challenge and it’s one that we are relishing ahead of going up to Croke Park.”