LONG gone are the days when Tralee IT were the kingpins of the Sigerson Cup.
The 1990s were a golden era for the Tralee college with a hat -trick of titles won in 1997, '98 and '99. Their team, of course, at the time was backboned by a whole host of inter-county players from all corners of the country. Indeed, it wasn't at all unusual to have a county player sitting on the bench for some of the games. It's a much different story these days with a lower level of expectation considering that the college have not won a game in the competition for almost a decade.
They did win the Trench Cup which is a secondary competition in 2010, but considering the strength of sides such as DCU, DIT and UCC all of whom have won the Sigerson recently, Tralee's chances of bridging a fifteen year gap in the premier competition are pretty remote.
Nevertheless, given their performances to date this season they will be expected to give a pretty good account of themselves when they entertain NUIG ( formerly UCG) this Wenesday afternoon in the North Campus at Tralee I.T.
While they didn't qualify from their section, which included UCC, CIT, and Carlow IT. In the Higher Education League this season they did beat Athlone IT in a play-off to secure their top flight status.
Team manager Wayne Quillinan is going into the game not knowing an awful lot about the opposition.
"In college football it's difficult to get a background on a particular team, even if, one of our selectors watched them play a game recently in the Connacht FBD League," the Austin Stacks man commented. "They have a few of the Galway Under 21s, who won last years All-Ireland title."
Still, he is quite upbeat about his sides chance for a number of reasons
"Unlike some other colleges we don't have any seasoned senior inter-county players so we're punching a bit above our weight. Home advantage is huge and we have had the benifit of training and playing on the pitch.
"In the McGrath Cup game against Kerry it was encouraging that nobody gave up at any stage and for periods we had a fair bit of possession, especially for a fifteen minute spell in the second half, but, we didn't put scores on the board during that period.
"We've played a few good teams [Limerick Seniors / Cork Under 21s] in challenge games recently and really we have left no stone unturned having trained three and four nights a week before Christmas.
"So I am looking for a big performance with the decisive factor probably being whichever team gains a strong grip in the middle eight. Overall, I feel we are capable of winning the game."
Whether they will or not is debatable with the general consensus being that they are real outsiders in this particular game. NUIG don't have a lot of recognisable names in their line up, but informed sources suggest that they have a very strong squad at their disposal.
They last won the trophy back in 2003 and in the Roll of Honour have won it twenty two times. Tralee will be weakened with the absence through injury of forwards Paul O'Donoghue and Teddy Doyle.
In defence Padraig Ó Sé, Eamonn Hickson, Giles O'Grady, and Denis Mc Elligott are quite accomplished performers. Rory Deane and Damien Somers form a quite industrious midfield partnership while up front John Egan, Shane Carroll, Mike Finnegan and Darren Wallace are all extremely resourceful attackers.
So one can expect a quite spirited and determined challenge from the locals, but it probably won't be sufficient to put an end to a barren spell for the college in the competition. The winners will be away to DCU in the next round.