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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 29 February, 2020

Moynihan's colossal influence, a burst football boot and 'The Sem' Hogan Cup magic

Killian Burns and Seamus Moynihan have been reflecting on Hogan Cup glory for St. Brendan’s, Killarney, back in 1992.

THE BOARDERS AND the ‘day dogs’.

That’s how it was back in 1992, when St Brendan’s, Killarney, stormed to Hogan Cup glory.

Killian Burns was corner back on a wintry day in Thurles when ‘The Sem’ beat St Jarlath’s.

He kicked the final point of the game, too, bursting one of the boots he had paid a princely sum of £9.99 for.

“When I kicked that point, didn’t the feckin’ bottom of the boot break in two,” smiles Burns now.

It was a big day for Burns, the only 5th year student on the team joint-managed by Fr. Larry Kelly, brother of former GAA President Seán (who was Burns’s civics teacher), and Fr. Jim Kennelly.

Sean Kelly Former GAA President Sean Kelly. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We knew them inside out,” says Burns. “They stayed and lived with us in the grounds, nurtured us and really took care of us. They lived and breathed football, they were a duo.

“There was a nice feeling about the whole thing.

“It was just the craic that made it, the boarders and the ‘day dogs’, as we used to call them.

“The fact that the management lived with us and shared time with us day and night bonded the team together in a big way, and that showed.”

Seamus Moynihan was a “colossal” figure for St. Brendan’s and three months after winning a Hogan Cup, he was lining out at midfield on the Kerry team that lost to Clare in the Munster senior final, replacing Ambrose O’Donovan.

Seamus Moynihan in action against Clare in the 1992 Munster SFC final, just months after winning a Hogan Cup medal. Source: ©INPHO

“Seamus was the man,” says Burns. “Physically and with his leadership qualities, he was just a colossus.

“He would take balls at centre back and take it all the way up the pitch. Playing in a Munster final then, a Leaving Cert student.”

Moynihan himself has fond memories.

“First and foremost, it was great to win the All-Ireland with a college steeped in Gaelic Football tradition.

“Prior to us winning it, we had only won it once before, in 1969, and it just showed how hard and difficult it was to win.

“We had been knocking on the door for a few years. In 1991, we had an exceptional team and fell short to St. Fachtna’s of Skibbereen in the Munster final. They went on to win the All-Ireland.

Peter McCarthy leads the celebrations for St Brendans St. Brendan's celebrate last year's Hogan Cup win. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“In 1992, it was fantastic. A few guys repeating and staying back made the team exceptionally strong. We were physically imposing and had a great run all the way through Munster.

“We played St Peter’s, the lads they’re playing in the final at the weekend, in the semi-final and then it was St Jarlath’s of Tuam, the top dogs at the time.

“We were going to win it the hard way and while conditions in the first half were generally good, we were playing against a breeze.

“In fairness, Liam Sullivan made three or four point-blank saves to keep us in the game.

“In the second half, we took over but there were hailstones and a little bit of everything thrown in. Overall, over the 60 minutes we were the dominant team and finished the stronger. It was great, such a hard medal to get.”

Source: © Patrick Bolger/INPHO

Burns recalls a terrific balance on that St. Brendan’s team in 1992, a side that bridged a 23-year gap back to the previous Hogan Cup success of 1969.

24 more years would pass before St. Brendan’s won the trophy again, with an impressive victory over St. Pat’s, Maghera, last April. 

Burns recalls: “In 1992, I was a 5th year. There were colossal players ahead of me in 6th year and a lot of the lads had repeated the Leaving Cert.

“The stand-out was a hero of mine, Seamus Moynihan, he came back and repeated.

I was a boarder and there was a healthy rivalry between the boarders and the day pupils at the time, a nice healthy mix. I think we had eight boarders and seven day pupils on the team.

“When you’re boarding, you’re mixing with the lads on a daily basis and at night-time as well. There was a right camaraderie there.

“We had a fairly stand-out team but for us, there was no talk of All-Irelands.

“It hadn’t been won since 1969 and that didn’t mean anything for the likes of myself, at the age of 16.

John O'Keeffe John O'Keeffe captained St. Brendan's to Hogan Cup victory in 1969. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I only half-knew who John O’Keeffe was, he was the captain. My own father went to the Sem and played there in the late 1950′s.

“Dad was up in a photo up on the wall on a corridor going down to the refectory (food area) with the senior team from 1958/59. Lots of my team-mates were the same, we all had reminders of a footballing tradition in your family.”

Burns believes that the long gap between 1992 and 2016 can be partly attributed to the fact that boarders were no longer taken in from 1993.

“We fell into insignificance, really. I don’t know what you’d put it down to. One factor was the fact that I was in Leaving Cert the following year, 1993, and they had stopped taking in first years as boarders.

“You think about the heritage and it being a so-called football nursery for many years and then all of a sudden you didn’t have the pick of the country lads from back west in Dingle, the lads from Causeway in north Kerry, Tralee, all over the county.

If you wanted to play football, you had all of those boarders but then you didn’t have that choice. Then there was the rise of the other schools in Kerry, who ended up filling the gap and doing very well.”

For Burns, there was something special about the ’92 crew, so much so that they still meet up every year.

“One thing we do, and it’s testament to the Hogan Cup and the camaraderie you have, is that we take part in Tommy Griffin’s over-35s tournament as St Brendan’s.

Tommy Griffin celebrates with his team after the game Pobscoil Chorca Dhuibhne trainer and former Kerry footballer Tommy Griffin celebrates Hogan Cup glory in 2015. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“That’s usually played the week before the All-Ireland football final. We’ve won it for three years in a row, Moynihan’s still playing, all the lads from the ’92 team, staying the night in Dingle, having a few pints and playing a tournament over the course of the day.

“From my own personal point of view, I was a 5th year and I got on the Hogan Cup team at corner back.

“I got on the Kerry minor team then that year, ended up having that year and the year after.”

Killian Burns and Don Davis 18/7/1999 Killian Burns in action against Cork's Don Davis in the 1999 Munster SFC final. Source: Patrick Bolger/INPHO

Kerry also won All-Ireland vocational schools titles in 1992 and 1993. Allied to those was the St Brendan’s Hogan Cup winning squad and they came together to form the nucleus of Kerry teams that won the All-Ireland U21 crowns of 1995 and 1996, on which Burns featured.

Burns would go on to win All-Ireland senior titles with Kerry in 1997 and 2000 but winning the Hogan Cup ranks right up there with any of his career achievements, and set him on the path to future successes.

“Conor O’Donnell ended up playing a bit with Kerry,” Burns adds.

“And John Doyle, who sadly passed away from cancer a few years back, a corner forward, let’s not forget him.”

Burns won’t make the final as he has some important business to attend to on Saturday, with a Kerry legends team taking on their Galway counterparts in aid of the Cairde-FriendsMatter charity.

But he’ll follow the fortunes of St Brendan’s with interest against surprise packets St. Peter’s from Wexford in Saturday’s final.

They have the chance to do what they’ve never done before – win back-to-back Hogan crowns.

“It’s so hard to win,” Burns notes. “You might only have one or two chances and that’s it.

“The potential to get two-in-a-row would be serious history-making. It would put the Sem right back back on the map as a stronghold.”

For Moynihan, a Hogan Cup medal rates highly on his stellar career CV.

Moynihan won four All-Ireland SFC medals with Kerry, four Sigerson Cups, three National Leagues, six Munster SFC titles and two All-Star awards.

And yet he still speaks fondly about his Hogan Cup win.

“It’s every young lad’s dream to play with Kerry and win All-Irelands but the medal with the Sem is really up there. There’s a uniqueness to that medal, so few have it and it’s a prized possession.

Seamus Moynihan Seamus Moynihan captained Kerry to All-Ireland SFC glory in 2000. Source: Patrick Bolger/INPHO

“I know Dingle, Killorglin and Coláiste na Sceilge have gone on since and had great teams and won it. Over the last 25 years, Kerry colleges have been to the forefront but prior to that you had only St. Brendan’s and Tralee CBS knocking at the door.

“That has changed with the amalgamation of schools and what not but it’s fantastic for the Sem to be back in the final for the second year in a row.

“It’s a really competitive competition and hard to do that. But to answer your question, it’s a medal well up there, as special as any of the Sigerson medals or anything like that.

“It’s a really unique and special medal.”

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