Colleges are having a ball
SCHOOL days are special. The best years of your life. Perhaps.
Dublin Colleges chief, Tom O'Donnell, is sure of one thing -- they provide the ideal apprenticeship for furthering your career with big ball and small.
The fabric of Dublin's All-Ireland winners last September graduated from the college system, and college football and hurling have never been more vibrant in the capital.
More and more schools are now playing Gaelic games. And a positive trend in recent years was the introduction of Gaelic games to some rugby strongholds.
That famous day in Dr Cullen Park back in 2006 when Dublin won the All-Ireland Senior Colleges Hurling 'A' title for the first time paved the way for many more notable achievements that followed.
On that afternoon in Carlow's tidy home, Michael O'Grady hung a Dublin banner at the back of the terrace. Dublin's Forever Friend has never been slow about pinning his colours to the mast. Vincent Teehan, Declan Feeney and John McEvoy led the Dubs to the Promised Land. Their history-making Blues Brothers continue to prosper.
"Dublin colleges hurling and football teams will always be there or thereabouts," confirms Tom.
"We have some very strong schools in both codes. But the only way we can judge ourselves is by playing the likes of St Kieran's in hurling and St Pat's, Navan in football."
Clonkeen College played Pat's in the Leinster U16 'A' Football final last week. Pat's lifted the trophy.
"I have seen them a few times. They are a very impressive outfit," stated Tom.
"But Clonkeen's achievement in winning their first Dublin 'A' title this season has to be saluted. Some of the Clonkeen players are not even with Gaelic clubs.
"Compare that to Pat's. They had 36 players in their squad and all were with clubs.
"And not only that but there was such a wide spread of Meath clubs represented. Clonkeen only had Cuala, Crokes and Geraldines.
"I felt the standard of football in that final was superb. And there wasn't a dirty tackle. There was a wonderful atmosphere at the match. Overall, it was a brilliant advert for colleges football.
"Russell Park is a fabulous venue. And we are blessed that we have so many excellent venues in the county."
Dublin Colleges are also blessed that they have Tom as CEO. Last week he arrived in Russell Park with printed teamsheets for everybody in the audience.
And his presentation was as short and as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel. Where other officials use 20 paragraphs while everybody shivers in the cold, Tom used one. And he insists that in Dublin, the primary, secondary and third level road is the best stairway to heaven. But don't tell Jim McGuinness. Email Niall Moyna instead. Or Billers!