FINAL PREPARATIONS Pictured at St Gerald’s College, Castlebar last week were, left to right: Aaron Moran, Ronan Reilly (captain), Daniel Forde (team manager) and Mark Dolan. Also in the photo were the Flanagan Cup and the Connacht Senior League trophy. Pic: Michael McLaughlin
ST Gerald’s College, Castlebar are aiming to make it a clean sweep of trophies when they take on St Colman’s College, Claremorris in Friday evening’s Connacht Post-Primary Schools Senior ‘A’ football championship final.
Gerald’s have already won the Flanagan Cup and Connacht Senior League competitions this season (beating Colman’s in each of those finals), and are hot favourites to complete the hat-trick and win the provincial championship for the first time since 2014.
However, their experienced manager, Daniel Forde, believes that Colman’s ‘tradition and track record’ in the competition means that they will take ‘serious beating’ in the first all-Mayo Connacht senior decider since the schools clashed ten years ago.
Forde (34), who teaches PE and Maths at St Gerald’s, said that his charges had received ‘a huge boost’ from winning the league title before Christmas as ‘it opened the lads’ eyes to what was possible’.
“Before we kicked a ball this season, the facts were that this Leaving Cert group had never won a trophy at any level in school,” he told The Mayo News. “The fifth years would have won a First Year colleges, and the TYs won a First Year colleges, so they would have been coming with more of a pedigree in terms of winning things.
“But, early doors, you could see that there was a good spread of good players in this team. We genuinely don’t have any real stars, we don’t have anybody on the Mayo Under-20 squad.
“Even if you look at the spread of scorers from the semi-final, seven of the eight players from midfield up scored.
“That shows the depth in the squad and our lack of reliance on one or two key fellas.”
Forde, who is also part of James Horan’s Mayo management set-up this season, is joined in the St Gerald’s coaching team by former Mayo forward Stephen Carolan, ex-Mayo defender Niall Dunne (a past pupil of the school) and Gary Walsh, a selector with the Ballintubber senior club team.
Forde is fulsome in his praise for the work being done by the local GAA clubs like Castlebar Mitchels, Breaffy, Ballintubber, Parke and Burrishoole, while he also credits his fellow coaches in Gerald’s — Joe Geraghty, Ian Kelleher and Michael Magee (First Year); Seán Burke and Kieran McNally (Juvenile); and Tom Naughton and Diarmuid O’Connor (Junior) with also playing major roles in St Gerald’s recent renaissance.
This senior squad have also made a big impression on their manager.
“They have great character, and I can genuinely say that there’s no egos, no issues with attitude, they’re very reliable, they’re very tuned in, have a great work ethic, and there’s a very strong team bond amongst them,” explained Daniel Forde.
“Maybe that’s because we don’t have those one or two stars, it makes them realise that it’s all about the 32 lads in the group.
“Like with every match we’ve played all year, on Friday I want them to work hard and put together a performance we can be proud of.”