While the assertion that school days are the best of your life would, in some ways at least, be vigorously contested by yours truly, one of the undoubted upsides to the primary school years was knowing what teacher you’d have come autumn, before departing for the summer’s sport and farming.
Personally, there was never greater excitement in this regard than the year when it was discovered we would be in the care of Willie Lyons the following year. The Mayo native is something of a Dunboyne GAA institution. Multiple generations of the clubs players began their careers under his tutelage. A scenario that continues today.
Now, this won’t shock many, but, that fifth class year spent with Willie was the most enjoyable I ever had in education. Football was stitched into everything we did and we probably learnt more because of that. My biggest problem was getting used to call him ‘Sir’ from Monday to Friday, having always been on first name terms in a club setting. A situation that also cropped up with Sean Ruane years later.
Anyway, that year turned out to be extremely special for another reason too. Willie had been coaching the adult football teams in the club for some years at that time and – after many heartbreaks – had overseen the capturing of the JFC in 1989. In ‘our’ year, though, the even bigger step came, when, in 1992, the club regained senior status in football. The players bringing the Mattie McDonnell Cup into the school was an extra special big deal then.
What I didn’t realise until very recently, however, was that in those years the club had ascended three divisions in the Meath All County Leagues three years in a row. Clonee United actually achieved the same feat in soccer at the same time, so there was a sizable number of players who amassed a plethora of medals at that time. And that’s without counting players who would’ve been on winning Intermediate hurling teams too.
The one prize which proved elusive, mind you, was the Mooney Cup – awarded to the Div. 1 winners. In fact, in the lead up to our most appearance in that showpiece, a thrall through records disclosed that St Peter’s had lost out eight times in the final of the competition.
Forgive me, lads, if this sounds negative, it’s just honesty, but, given the amount of disappointment already heaped on the club this season, a sense of trepidation dominated thoughts before Na Fianna were tackled. Balancing that, though, was possibly the continual belief that someday, somehow, the ball would break for us.
After each setback which befell the club this year, the same ritual was engaged in – listen to To Win Just Once repeatedly and then it post on Facebook. Whether it had any impact on the team or backroom staff may never be known, but, on that particular day, it was as if there was a collective decision that the fill of disappointments had been had and it was time to turn the tide.
Dunboyne played some of their best football of the year, with a particularly splendid performance from Donal Lenihan, who notched a personal tally of 2-2. It would be hoped that those in a position to act on such a classy showing would do so. No breath will be held in that regard however. It was also a momentous day for a few other members of the team and panel who now have the full set of Championship, Feis Cup and League medals.
For other players, the win was equally significant as it was their first reward in adult football. Perhaps it was for that reason above all else that the overriding feeling was that this victory needn’t be seen as the end of anything. Rather, the beginning of something potentially even greater. It is that very possibility which, to my mind, makes GAA the greatest never ending story there is.
In spite of the multiple disappointments Dunboyne have endured during the season, there have been highly significant successes also. Which fuels the feeling that the best may yet be to come. A lot done, more to do, you might say. From a personal perspective, any sporting success that can be enjoyed is of incalculable value on levels far more important than sporting ones.
It’d be openly admitted, as well, that this most recent success meant more than perhaps even here has the words for. Such has been the cloud, of sorts, enveloping matters very heavily of late. Thank you lads. What the lift also did, mind you, was instil a bit of hunger which had – it would be regretfully admitted – waned.
So much so that a crew was rounded up and the not unusual step of attending the Dublin county final was taken. On our equivalent stage is ultimately the longed-for location. To be embarking on the odyssey St Vincent’s now are. Aim for the sun and you might reach the clouds.