The best days of our lives

St Gerald's captain Aidan O'Shea

St Gerald's captain Aidan O'Shea




YOU doubt the merit of this statement while you are actually in school but it doesn’t take too many years in the real world to realise its merit.

Life was easy, carefree and everything was a voyage of discovery. You waited with baited breath for the long, summer evenings when you and your neighbours could play football until you were told it was getting too dark.

As you got older the whole new world of tennage discos awaited, another voyage with plenty to discover!  And looking back on it now you can’t help but smile at the innocence of your youth and compare you as a sixteen year old to today’s sixteen years and realise there is a world of difference.

Plenty of bad things are written and spoken about the youth of today but one thing you can’t dispute is their incredible confidence. They can’t be told something, dictated to. You have to make it a logical choice for them because they know what is good for them and what isn’t.

That cannot be a bad thing, surely? A generation coming out into the world afraid of nothing and confident in their own ability. That confidence can easily be seen on the sporting fields of Ireland too. Players are more expressive and, unlike some people from older generations, they will largely play whatever sport they want to, not what they are told to do.

And the fact that, more often than not, that sport is Gaelic football should be a source of immense pride to those of us in the game in Mayo.

Which brings us onto tomorrow’s Connacht Colleges Senior A football final in Ballinrobe. An all Mayo decider for the first time ever, as far as TIALTNGO can recall, as the confident and assured young men of St Gerald’s, Castlebar and St Colman’s, Claremorris lock horns.

And there is something special about colleges football that could contrive to make this a classic. While being a high level of football (not far from county minor in my humble opinion), there is something purer about the colleges grade. Teams are sent out to play football, stick to their strengths, see what the opposition has to offer and let the best team win.

Much of this is down to the lack of familiarity between teams which makes cynical football difficult. But that won’t necessarily apply here with the teams having faced each other at various schools levels and club clashes too with Castlebar, Breaffy and Ballintubber players from Gerald’s well used to playing the likes of Claremorris and Garrymore, with healthy Colman’s representation.

And of course St Gerald’s star duo of Aidan O’Shea and Aidan Walsh, the central axis of the Mayo minor forward line that went all the way to the All-Ireland Minor final last year will need no introduction to Colman’s duo Shane Nally and John Broderick who formed the left-hand side of the defence of that side.

But, while both teams will know each other, both are confident sides and will feel they each have enough to win. So while sticky defenders will be put on key forwards, it is hard to imagine a negative gameplan from either side.

So we could be in for a treat in Ballinrobe (throw-in 3pm). And come what may, the Aenghus Murphy Cup will be back in Mayo for the first time since 1997 (when St Gerald’s won their second title in a row) and we’ll be able to look on at a Mayo school going onto the last four of the search for the famous and prestigious Hogan Cup.

If either school manages that, you’ll have no trouble convincing that team that school days are the best days of your life.




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