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Colleges unit played huge role in hurling

IT was the day the blue sliotar bounced as high as Liberty Hall.

May Day, 2006. Dr Cullen Park, Carlow. The first Dublin side to reach the All-Ireland Senior A Colleges Hurling final.

They beat St Flannan's from Ennis, managed by Jamsie O'Connor and Con Woods.

In charge of the Dubs were Vincent Teehan, John McEvoy and Declan Feeney.

Dublin won by 1-11 to 0-11. Cian McBride got the goal. Paul Ryan hit six points, four frees.

Diarmuid Connolly played at midfield. Johnny Cooper was full-forward.

Simon Lambert was in goal. Conor Connolly of Liffey Gaels was the captain.

"We didn't have any fears of St Flannan's," reflected Vincent Teehan.

It was a major breakthrough for Dublin hurling. And it was Operation Co-operation.

"We had so much support from everybody - the likes of John Treacy from the minors, Tom O'Donnell, the Dublin County Board and the Friends of Dublin Hurling."

On that afternoon in Carlow, Michael O'Grady was on the terraces unfurling a banner.

"We got first-class treatment," added Vincent. "We had the talent in Dublin. All we needed was a bit of belief."

That victory led to many memorable days for hurling in Dublin, and the combined Dublin Colleges side proved a slice of inspiration.

The first Dublin Combined team to enter the Leinster Senior 'A' Colleges Championship was in 1993. The competition was knock-out at the time.

Slowly, the Dubs were beginning to make progress, reaching the latter stages before losing to the likes of Callan CBS, St Kieran's College and Kilkenny CBS.

A Leinster title was eventually secured, before, many years later, they reached the Promised Land in Carlow.

Many future Dublin hurlers played with the Combined Colleges side - names like Carl Meehan, David Sweeney, Aodhán de Paor, Emmet Carroll, Stephen McDonnell, David Donnelly, Tomás McGrane, David Curtin, Greg Bennett, Shane Martin, Ronan Fallon, Simon Daly, Philip Brennan, Derek O'Reilly, Shane Ryan, Conal Keaney and David O'Callaghan.

And some noted footballing Dubs like David Henry, Tomás Quinn, Paul Griffin, Liam óg ó hEineachain and Wayne McCarty.