Roscommon CBS out to complete rapid ascent
Almost a year ago, Roscommon CBS manager Seamus Heneghan gathered the school's 2014-15 senior footballers together and asked them a question: did they want to continue in the 'B' competition or step up to 'A'?
It wasn't a straight-forward decision. They hadn't tasted success at 'B' as a group but had gone mighty close and there was a good chance they'd be in the shake up for honours had they played it safe.
In the 'A' grade, there was no telling how they'd get on but Heneghan, who along with joint manager Willie Hegarty had helped the school to a 'B' All-Ireland a few years ago, had a hunch they'd be able for it.
And if nothing else, they'd have been exposed to a better level of football, which would only aid their development down the line.
"We explained to them that this would take a serious commitment if they were to step up," Heneghan recalls, ahead of this afternoon's Colleges' All-Ireland final clash with Kerry's Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne.
"I often think that there's little between the top schools in A and B and the lads decided they'd go for it.
"It didn't surprise me. They are talented sportsmen who have won things at rugby, soccer and hurling and they are good students too.
"So they are ambitious. They wanted to test themselves."
What followed has been scarcely believable. Heneghan had a quiet belief in the group but even he was surprised when they played in a ten-a-side competition last year that included some of the best Leinster schools around and won the thing.
They reached the Connacht league final but were brought back down to earth with a bump when they lost to Summerhill of Sligo by 11 points. At that point, it looked like they had reached their ceiling. Still, they went back to work and tweaked things. They same two teams met in the Connacht final and Roscommon managed to get over the line by the minimum.
"A lot is made of that game but the score line is a bit deceiving," Heneghan says. "They took their goal chances that day and we didn't and that was the big difference."
Good Counsel from Wexford were next up in the semi-final. The New Ross school had won the junior All-Ireland the year before and were unbeaten in two years but Roscommon found a way.
Underpinned by a ferocious work-rate they played their way into an All-Ireland final
"They rose to the challenge. It was the same in the Connacht final," explains Heneghan. "They were up against it there and they could have gone away then but they didn't."
They face their greatest test to date in Croke Park today.
Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne are out for back-to-back Hogan Cups. The Kerry school have already showed their hunger is very much intact when they won replays in both the Corn Ui Mhuiri final and the All-Ireland semi-final.
"I think they have won four in a row in Munster which is incredible, especially for a school of that size," Heneghan says.
"They have plenty of good players who have won All-Irelands with the Kerry minors and won the colleges' All-Ireland last year but are back in the final again, which shows they went back and worked even harder."