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Oct 09th
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Home Sport Sean Rice St Jarlath's loss will be Mayo's gain

St Jarlath's loss will be Mayo's gain

Sean RiceFor what seems time immemorial St Jarlath’s has been the dominant football college in Connacht. But Sunday’s final between two Mayo colleges signals a wind of change. 1997 St.Jarlaths line out

St Jarlath’s loss will be Mayo’s gain

Sean Rice

Sean RiceFOR what seems time immemorial St Jarlath’s has been the dominant football college in Connacht. It has also claimed more Hogan Cup victories than any other college in the country. Generally associated with Galway football, the Tuam nursery would not, however, have acquired such distinction were it not for the immense contributions made by students from Mayo.
In the All-Ireland final of 1947, in which they beat St Patrick’s of Armagh, no fewer than ten of the winning team were from this county. Anthony Morrison, Billy Flynn, Pat Flanagan, Mick O’Malley, Chris McHale, Tom Lyons, Vincent McHale (1-1), the captain, Mick Flanagan (1-1), Peter Solan (2-1) and Sean Shiel (0-1) shared in winning the first Hogan Cup for the college, a year after it was donated for the competition.
In the midst of that quality was the great Sean Purcell who from midfield scored half a dozen points.
Down the decades Mayo players have been prominent in the school’s success. Frank Stockwell, the man who later teamed up so successfully with Purcell, once told this writer that he had seen no better footballer emerge from St Jarlath’s than Mayo’s Padraig Brogan
As a seat of learning St Jarlath’s was a status symbol. To have boarded in the Tuam School was the boast of the bourgeoisie. You were a lesser creature if you had not trod its hallowed halls, if you could not join in the reminiscences of its past pupils wherever they gathered in groups.
That privilege, however, may soon be restricted to students in the vicinity of the North Galway town. The decision of the college authorities to end boarding will deny Jarlath’s the services of many Mayo students, leaving Galway players to become the sole contributors to whatever success the college attains in the future.
Some will see in their failure to reach the Connacht final this year the creation of a benchmark in the structure of college football in the province. The loss of players from other counties may have heralded a decline in the standard set by St Jarlath’s. The Hogan Cup may not return to the province with the same frequency. But no college will dominate the competition because of the inevitable levelling out of standards.
It is not the first time that St Jarlath’s was knocked out in the province. But previous defeats were dismissed as nothing more serious than over confidence and loss of form on the day. Those in the know take a different view, however, and see Sunday’s final between two Mayo colleges as a significant wind of change.
In the semi-final, the Tuam School forced St Gerald’s to extra time at Ballinrobe, and eventually lost by two points. But if the Castlebar college scored half of what they missed there would have been no need for extra time. In amassing a whopping 23 wides they gave some indication of their dominance. But they need no warning from mentors Joe McCabe, Ned Murren or Tom Naughton about the danger of such profligacy next Sunday at the same venue.
It is a unique final. St Colman’s Claremorris did taste Hogan Cup success back in 1977 when they beat Carmelite College, Moate by a single point. Hollymount’s Eugene Macken led the side to glory and later sang the praises of college president, Fr Martin Newell, for his football knowledge and his great ability to assess matches.
Colman’s drew with St Jarlath’s in the Connacht final that year at 4-5 each, and won the replay by 1-8 to 2-4 at Claremorris. Four years later they reached the All-Ireland final again and this time the Moate College reversed the result by a similar margin.
No Hogan Cup has ever graced a St Gerald’s desk. The Castlebar college won the inaugural Connacht championship in 1929, before the donation of the trophy. They had to wait until 1996 to repeat that achievement and then lost heavily to Killorglin in the All-Ireland semi-final. But the following year they retained the Connacht crown and reached the final for the first time with victory over St Patrick’s Navan.
Their ten-point defeat in the final at the hands of St Patrick’s Dungannon was not a true reflection of their performance. In a torrent of rain they trailed by 0-4 to 0-2 at the interval, and were unlucky to have a goal, scored by Colm Staunton, disallowed just before the break.
One umpire raised the green flag but re-considered his decision following protests by St Pat’s defenders. Ballintubber’s John Feeney captained the side and St Gerald’s scorers were Kenneth Hyland, Colm Lyons and Niall Dunne.
In reaching the final at Shrule last week St Colman’s had a clinical twelve points to spare over St Mary’s of Galway. The size of their win leaves no doubt about the desire of the Claremorris students for a return of the glory days of 1977.
Accuracy was their principal weapon. Unlike St Gerald’s, their forwards scored from all angles, and the leadership shown by John Broderick and Shane Nally of last season’s Mayo minor team was their motivating force.
St Gerald’s are not without their exciting players and there is no doubting the skills of Aidan Walsh and Aidan O’Shea who contributed so much to the journey of Mayo’s minors to Croke Park and Longford last year. They have a strong, able side, but they cannot afford a repeat of their semi-final wastage.
Both are evenly match and a titanic struggle is on the cards, a fitting finale to a unique occasion.
IN his annual report to the Connacht Council, secretary John Prenty pulls no punches. Writing that various attempts have been made over the years to decrease the incidents of burn-out for our young elite players, the secretary highlights positive proposals passed in an attempt to regulate the playing and training season.
“Are there any field games in the world where players train so much to play so little?” he asks. “The closed season for senior players in November and December and the curtailment of the commencement of U-21 training to 1st January and minor training to 1st March, was brought in following detailed examination of burnout by some of the leading medical experts involved in our games.
“After three months of the new arrangements we need to ask ourselves has the idea worked and have counties observed the rules. Who have been the main beneficiaries?
“I think it is fair to say that a coach and four has been driven through the regulations and every trick in the book has been used to camouflage what is going on.  It is hard to understand how counties went to Special Congress and voted almost unanimously to bring in the closed season and then ignored what was passed. Maybe the assertion that expenses could not be paid during the closed season was the overriding factor in the yes vote.
“If I were naive I would think that there have not been any breaches in Connacht, but I’m not naive.”
So who’s the culprit? Well, it appears that the secretary was indicting one county in particular for breaching the closed season rules.
Referring to the new experimental rules, Prenty has no doubt they are having the desired effect and if implemented would see ‘the cancer of cynical fouling being removed from our games.’
“The recent spectacle between Dublin and Tyrone showed how our games can be competitive, physical and attractive while still being played in the right spirit. The display of Sligo referee, Marty Duffy, did much to make the game so enjoyable.
“Our choice at Congress is simply, do we want a foul-ridden cynical game or one where everybody understands the rules and where all offences are properly categorized. I wish to compliment Liam O’Neill and Pat Daly and their committee for their diligence and dedication to this cause and hope that their efforts are rewarded at Congress.”

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