Sam day at Kevin's!
FINGLAS school pay tribute to their All-Ireland heroesFRAN RYDER led the way to the stage. The St Kevin's College hall erupted. The big eight had arrived.
The famous Finglas school opened its doors in 1967. Remarkably, it has produced eight Dublin players who have won the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.
They are Fran Ryder, Gerry Hargan, John Kearns, Barney Rock, Anto McCaul, Dermot Deasy, Mick Deegan and James McCarthy – men who contributed massively to the Sam successes of 1983, 1995, 2001 and this year.
You can make that 'an honourable' nine if you include Ger Brennan, a teacher at the school. Ger captained St Vincent's to Dublin SFC glory this term.
The following day he brought the Clery Cup in to show it to his teaching colleague, Ollie Clinton, of Ballymun Kickhams!
Ollie was the master of ceremonies for Friday's event. There was tea and cake in the staff room. The bunting was up. Molly Malone came over the tannoy. A glittering array of trophies, including Sam, glistened in the sun. Old stories were recalled.
The school now has over 500 students. The past pupils include soccer internationals, the O'Leary brothers, David and Pierce, Keith O'Neill and Stephen Kelly. Sport was always part of the roll. The facilities are good. Proud pictures decorate the walls.
Back in 1986, Kevin's won two Leinster titles (Gaelic football and soccer) within 24 hours. All-Ireland badminton titles also came home.
Sport and study are encouraged. Tom Byrne is the principal. He had a message for the green-and-black-clad students.
"These All-Ireland winners sat at the same desks as you. They were class acts on the field and off it. They have shown that if you are dedicated, you can achieve in life."
The theme was repeated by Ollie Clinton, who told the assembly that "you are lucky that we now have a golden generation in Dublin. We have won two All-Irelands in three years. That doesn't happen too often."
Fran Ryder was in the first-ever class in the school. He later returned as the school's first PE teacher.
A clip was shown on the big screen of Fran's playing days. Dublin v Kerry in the 1976 All-Ireland final. Michael O'Hehir on commentary. Kevin Moran with that blistering run that concluded with a shot that just missed by a knuckle. It would have been a wonder goal.
"Getting over the line against Galway in 1974 was great, but then beating Kerry in '76 was even better," quipped Fran.
John Kearns focused on the values of honesty and endeavour. "I was privileged to be part of such a wonderful team here. We had success. We got the taste for winning, and we brought that on to our club and county careers," he said.
John's regular midfield partners for the Dubs were Jim Ronayne and, perhaps, the greatest of them all, big Brian Mullins.
Gerry Hargan was a polished full-back in '83. "My job was to just win the ball and give it to the likes of Barney or Anto," he smiled.
He is impressed with Gavin's Gladiators. "People are talking about the two-in-a-row. It's a very hard thing to do, but Dublin have such a young, talented squad. That will give them a chance."
Barney Rock recalled that he came to school as a wing-back. "Brother Tommy McDonnell converted me to attack."
And, as always happens, when he was asked about the son of the father, he responded: "Dean is every bit as good as his auld fella!"
And even now, Barney can still feel the boyhood tingle that surrounded the locality for Dublin's '74 triumph and for Fran Ryder being among Heffo's Heroes.
Anto McCaul also enjoyed his Saintly days. "There was a great spirit and camaraderie here. We were all good friends in school and outside of school."
The echo of Brother McDonnell's work filled the afternoon. He is a legend in these parts.
"He had a huge influence on me," recollected Mick Deegan. "Fran Ryder taught me here. He was also a big help to me.
"It was marvellous to win the All-Ireland as a player. And what happened this year was fantastic.
"It was brilliant to be part of Jim's management structure.
"The lads really put in the work. The efforts and the sacrifices that the players make are twice as much these days as compared to our time."
Dermot Deasy, another Lord of the square, was able to give the pupils a view from a different side of the fence from his experience as a referee.
"Once a referee makes a decision, he is not going to change his mind," explained Dermot who told the audience of his joy of getting a free class and consequently getting out to play football that bit earlier.
"They say that your school days are the happiest of your life. Well, I was certainly happy when those free classes popped up and we were allowed to put on the boots," he grinned.
Up on the screen, they showed James McCarthy's Croke Park 2011 Wexford strawberry. Thunderous applause greeted the goal.
"I have so many outstanding memories from my time here," commented James. "I have to say this is a super school with great teachers.
"It is up to everybody what they want to do in life, but I feel that you can study hard and also play sport. It is possible to do both."
And then he made the announcement that they all wanted to hear. "Lads, I have been told to say that you can all go home early today."
It sparked the biggest cheer of the day. And brought a smile to the faces of the electric eight sitting at the top table.
They had returned to the old school yard and quickly learned that some things never change ... on special days like last Friday!