You wouldn't need to have clear memories of Celtic's historic European Cup win over Inter Milan in 1967 to have picked up on its context. To have a winning squad, in professional sport, all born within 30 miles of your home base is unthinkable nowadays.
That stat gets trotted out from time to time, usually to emphasise the power of a group who have a strong sense of place. The further we are removed from it, the more romantic it becomes. Yet just two years ago the Ireland rugby team managed a vague imitation with their home win over New Zealand. Ten of the match-day 23 went to five schools within a few kilometres of each other.
If this was a club team - they were all, at the time, Leinster players - then it might be more appealing. For a national side however, spread over four provinces, it looks altogether different.
Peter Smyth, still warming his backside into the chair of Head of Elite Player Development at the IRFU, is from that part of South County Dublin. A classic, one-eyed 'Rock boy in his playing days, he brought the same focus to coaching St Mary's in the AIL, then the Leinster Academy and now, since November, the IRFU,
"Is that a good or bad thing for Irish rugby?" he asks of the stat from 2018. "I think we all recognise that's a red flag. So you come into a job like this and you say: 'Do we need the schools?' Yes, we need the schools, but I think there is an acknowledgement from schools, from youth, from everyone, that the growth area in Irish rugby going forward is in the youths. We know that it's in these fellas, that if we can give them equal opportunity and equal access we can get their numbers up."
Great. The need to broaden the base in Ireland is not new. When Alan Quinlan was first capped nearly 21 years ago, he became the poster boy for youths rugby. In the match-day 22 against Romania that afternoon he was the only one of the Irish-born players not to have come through the schools' system. Hallelujah. Quinlan will be 46 this summer. That's a long time for folks to be pointing to him in wonder and marvelling at how he is the embodiment of a changed system.
John Hayes was in the same ballpark. Then along came Stephen Ferris, and Seán O'Brien and most recently Tadhg Furlong. Not to forget Shane Horgan. In what must have struck somebody as a masterplan, Leinster even named a youth competition after Horgan.
Normally you wait until the man or woman to be honoured has popped their clogs, but that Horgan is alive and kicking was not a problem. Critically, he was high profile and the system needed a boost. Evidently, it still does.
The figures for the last five seasons of academy intake across the four provinces paints a picture. The schools' game rules the playground. We remember well how a retired colleague loved to hold forth on the remarkable job the schools had done in providing players for Ireland. It was like an engineer beaming with pride over the only route into town. "Look, they're using my road!"
It's a well-worn track, the most policed piece of motorway in western Europe. Which is part of the problem. With the increase in profile of the schools' cups has come a degree of self-importance that is forbidding. The schools' lobby in Irish rugby know their place. And the stats back them up.
So they get away with corralling kids and stopping them playing rugby outside the schools' environment. Of course there is a burnout-prevention element to this, but it's more about control. And, as a policy, stopping people playing the game outside of their school is insane. Probably because Ireland does so well at national and provincial level - and the schools drive it - militates against change.
"I know the politics of it," Smyth says. "And I've been on both sides of it as well. But my general philosophy is that we shouldn't at any level or in any competition be regulating against kids playing the game we all love and are a part of. And it's as simple as that for me.
"When I was coaching in school I'd say obviously I want you to win, but it's for you, not for me. But what I really want for me is that you keep playing the game 'cos I tell you lads, I wouldn't have had the same life without it. And it's nothing to do with money or anything like that. It's to do with the friendships, with having a sense of self, community, and all that. If we get to the stage where we just let the kids play our game, I think we'll be in a reasonable spot, and then if there was hassle surely we'd sort that out ourselves."
The good bits are very good. The well-strung schools' system churns out players who can cope with high-intensity rugby. If you are in the top band of rugby schools then your fixture list is against your peers from around the country, not necessarily your neighbours, which keeps the intensity up. But when the schools' cups roll around every new year, the whole show ramps up to disturbing levels.
Meantime, on the other side of the fence, the clubs chug along in competitions that often are not fit for purpose. Spared the searing heat of Planet Schools, they are not well enough organised to use the cooler temperature to develop their skills. And when further down the track their players intersect with their schools' counterparts, most are a mile off the pace. The best, however, are not bad at all.
By a distance, the most encouraging development has been the crossover in the last few seasons of representative youth sides with some of the top schools. In both Leinster and Munster, these representative sides now are getting circa five games a season against strong schools' opposition. That makes a huge difference.
Some of the youths players are involved in either provincial or national talent programmes, or both. We'll admit to losing the will to live when it comes to keeping pace with the various acronyms that float in and around the development pathway, but it's part of the furniture. And you have to sit somewhere.
This version of the National Talent System (NTS) is more a functional bench than soft settee.
So if you need an Academy to accelerate the development of players to the senior game, the NTS programme delivers players into an academy. Basically it's a group of around 50, spread over the last two years of schooling and the first year out in the free world, where quite a bit is mapped out for you: learning to handle training intensity, training load, understanding nutrition, understanding your own body. And instead of putting all the information in a shoebox in Lansdowne Road, they have splashed out on a system that has Smyth very bullish.
"It's the first time in the IRFU that everything has been removed off hard drives, laptops, desk tops, cigarette papers, everything. Now every province has depth charts, training sessions, medical information, athletic development information, all on one page. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out where all this is going. As much as you're going to need the coach conversation and the talent ID and those 'soft things', statistical analysis and hard data is becoming more and more important in rugby because the decision-making process is crucial that we get the right volume through at the right time to service the teams.
"As you can see from the situation we're going through at the moment: did I realise that rugby is on the financial edge that it's on? I probably didn't before this. I just assumed the game will always go on in some format, but now you're kind of thinking, well actually every decision we make has big ramifications because there's a lot of people's time, resources, salary, all these things are involved, and it's about the success of the provincial teams and the national teams because if they don't earn the money then it doesn't wash down to me and into the players and into the resources. It's been a real lesson on how connected we are."
The key to keeping it all ticking over is Academyland.
The target for the academies across the country is to get 85 per cent through to the end, and a contract of some sort. Even if that means playing for someone else, then fair enough. It seems very odd there is no figure readily available for how well that process is running. The class of 2015/16 gives us a picture though, if only for that intake.
Excluding Connacht, who were unable to provide information on anything, the other three provinces fared as follows: Leinster took in seven players in summer 2015 - one plays for Leinster still (Josh Murphy), three of them are playing for other provinces (Jeremy Loughman and Joey Carbery in Munster; David O'Connor in Ulster). Seán McNulty is in America's MLR and Oisín Heffernan went to Nottingham. Scrumhalf Charlie Rock is understood to be in Australia, no longer playing. That exceeds Smyth's 85 per cent goal.
Munster also gave out seven academy contracts for that season. Liam O'Connor and Conor Oliver graduated to the senior squad, though Oliver will be a free agent soon. Three of the others are playing abroad: Steve McMahon in Carcassonne; Tomás Quinlan and Ned Hodson in the MLR. JP Phelan is playing club rugby, currently in Clontarf, and Ben Kilkenny had to retire through injury.
Ulster took in six lads in 2015. Ross Kane, Nick Timoney and Mattie Rea are all in the senior squad now. Johnny McPhillips also made it through to senior pro status, playing 24 games, and is now with Leicester Tigers. Peter Cooper plays club rugby with Malone, and Andrew McGrath didn't make it through the programme. It's not known if he still has an involvement in the game.
That's not a bad batting average. So the picture we're getting is of academies that, if they were in Wales, would be described as 'tidy'. And the structure immediately around those academies is genuinely useful. Below that, however, the numbers game is scruffy.
"When I was in Blackrock, all I cared about - well, all I was told - was: 'Blackrock have to win the Senior Cup'," Smyth says. "And when I was in Mary's, I was told we had to have a good season and stay in the division. They were the only two instructions I got! If anything benefitted the province or the country outside of that, then great.
"Now if we can up our intake of youths (per season) - even if we get that to three/four, then we're in a really good place. But you have to remember, with the schools like Blackrock and Michael's they have principals whose kids are professional rugby players. And Gerry Foley has done a lot for rugby in Belvo. But there's no guarantee that schools run by religious orders will always have that philosophy."
No one is suggesting burning them down. Just edit their script a bit. Write some lines for the other side of the house. That way you'll have talent coming from far and wide instead of only around the corner.
The lopsided nature of Ireland’s rugby pathway is illustrated through the intake to our provincial academies. If you were to call in an air-strike on one pocket of South Dublin, you would rupture the supply line. Take out Blackrock and St Michael’s and there would be a crater at the heart of it.
To a lesser extent, the story is similar across the country, with a huge reliance on the fee-paying schools to keep the conveyor belt running. This is inflated by the magnet effect on promising players from the youths/club system. So in places these figures represent a code share: eg Athy Rugby Club nurtured Jeremy Loughman and Joey Carbery, just as Skerries did Conor Oliver, yet all three finished up in Blackrock where they featured prominently.
The IRFU records don’t reflect these transitions, so it’s a matter of judgement/convenience how the picture is presented. The nuts and bolts remain the same: Irish rugby is an allotment in one corner of a property comprising four green fields.
THE TOP FEEDERS
1 Blackrock: 16
2 St Michael’s: 10
3 Ballymena Academy: 7
4 Roscrea: 5
5 St Munchin’s: 4
CBC Cork: 4
PBC Cork: 4
*Ireland Qualified players