The current crop of talent on the Dundalk Schools team are just one game away from creating their own piece of history.
Ever since the four schools – De La Salle, St Mary’s College, Coláiste Rís and Dundalk Grammar School combined – they have only succeeded once in the Leinster Colleges Senior ‘A’ Championship, back in 2002.
A number of players from that squad went on to play senior football with their county, with four players involved this year, Neil Gallagher, Shane Lennon, Ronan Carroll and Louth captain Paddy Keenan.
However, the current panel of players now have a chance to follow in their footsteps by lifting the trophy themselves as they booked their place in the final by beating St Mary’s Edenderry, 3-15 to 4-03 on Saturday in Páirc Tailteann, Navan.
The win pleased their manager, Leslie Toal, but the manner of the victory was something he took pride in.
“It was a great feeling”, said Toal of the sound of the final whistle. “They way they played the game and enjoyed the occasion was brilliant.
“Yes, we let in some soft goals, but we won by nine points, which is a comfortable win. The pitch suited us, it was nice and wide and their two full-backs were taken off after 15-20 minutes because Conall McKeever and Ciaran Byrne were running them ragged so that’s just tells the tale.”
Along with Toal, the management team is made up of Padraig Staunton, John Boylan, Donal Hegarty and Declan Hynes, but if they win the crown, it will be Toal’s third championship success at this level.
His first came in 1985 when a Stefan White inspired Coláiste Rís won the title. In 2000, the schools amalgamated and two years later, they lifted the crown. St Mary’s player Paul Malone was the side’s captain.
“Paul marked Meath’s Joe Sheridan out of the game that day. It was on St Patrick’s Day, in the rain, I remember it well. Paddy Keenan was on the team, on his way to becoming a great player. A number of players from that team went on to play with Louth, so we must be doing something right.”
Dundalk will play either St Patrick’s of Navan or Moate in the final. Co-incidentally, it was St Patrick’s of Navan who Dundalk defeated 1-8 to 2-3 in the final in Drogheda in 2002, with five points coming from a 16-year-old Shane Lennon and Clan na Gael’s player JJ Quigley getting the all important goal on the day for his side.
With his new crop of players, Toal hopes to land the third title and he thinks they can do it, judging from their commitment so far.
“From the first day we got the squad together, there was a great buzz. We always have a full panel at training, they all mix with each other and they train very hard.
“A lot of them got great experience in the Lennon Cup and now in this Championship, it is like playing inter-county football, due to the speed of it.”
The final is scheduled for Saturday, March 12 and Toal is pushing for the game to be played in Croke Park to give his side a taste of Headquarters.
Their opponents will be revealed on March 5 when the other semi-final is played, but whoever comes through, Toal is expecting a tough game.
“We heard that Moate have a very good team this year, but we will have a look at them in the semi-final and concentrate on ourselves then and keep things fresh for the lads before the final.”