APRIL 28, 2021 will mark the 30th anniversary of the famous Hogan Cup triumph by the St Fachtna’s De La Salle senior footballers.
The Skibbereen secondary school football team defeated St Patrick’s of Navan by 2-9 to 0-7 to capture the All-Ireland Colleges final.
Ace goalkeeper Kevin O’Dwyer had the proud distinction of captaining his side to victory.
“It is frightening to think the 30 years have gone by so quickly. I have great memories of a really special time and era. It was a proud moment to captain my school to All-Ireland glory,” O’Dwyer recalled.
“The game wasn’t a classic, but winning was the primary goal and we achieved our mission. To win an All-Ireland final with your school friends was a great feeling.”
The star-studded St Fachtna’s De La Salle team contained players from a variety of clubs within the local hinterland. Castlehaven, Clann na nGael, Gabriel Rangers, Ilen Rovers, Kilmacabea, O’Donovan Rossa, and Tadhg MacCarthaigh all supplied players to the victorious school team.
O’Dwyer said all club rivalries were put away St for the betterment of their local secondary school.
“The rivalries which normally exist between the local clubs were cast aside. The clubs all came together to support our bid for success.
“Everyone had a great grá for the ‘Brothers’ as it was generally called. Flags and banners were out in force in all the villages and towns. The atmosphere on the day was unreal. Three special trains were required to ferry our supporters to Dublin on that famous day.”
The All-Ireland champions incredibly only had 20 players on their panel that season. What they lacked in numbers, they made up for in quality. The captain also pinpointed the close relationships between the players as a key ingredient in their success.
“We were very tight for numbers. There was a lot of commitment required and it didn’t suit some players.
We trained three days a week and sometimes during lunch breaks. We trained all over that Christmas. I remember training on December 28 in the snow.
"We were very close off the pitch. That was a big factor in our success. We self-disciplined also which was key. We knew when to have the craic, but we also knew when to knuckle down. We will all meet up once again when the restrictions are lifted to mark the 30th anniversary.
“We are still a very tight group.
“It was a two-year journey. We won the Munster final in 1990, but we were well beaten by St Jarlath’s in the semi-final.
“Their speed and physicality were unreal. We learned from it however and that stood to us the following year.
“We knew we had to up our game significantly. A number of the players repeated their Leaving Certificate to stay part of the project for All-Ireland glory in 1991.
“Football in St Fachtna’s was the be-all and end-all. The All-Ireland was all we wanted.
“Football was everything. It was our life. We started off that season with the aim of winning an All-Ireland title. No more, no less.”
St Fachtna’s were a team brimming with star quality throughout the team. Cork minor duo Pat Hegarty and Fachtna Collins were colossal forces at midfield in particular as the twin towers linked up brilliantly, so he was spoilt for choice with his kick-outs.
“To have the two Cork minor midfielders playing for us was unreal. My main aim was to drive the ball out as far as possible and one of them would generally claim it. There was no kick-out strategy back in those days. We didn’t need it with those lads.”
The addition of Cavan senior footballer John Brady who worked as a PE teacher in the school to their coaching team was another pivotal factor.
“He was a serious addition. He was a straight shooter. He brought a fresh voice and he had great knowledge.”
St Fachtna’s De La Salle which closed its famous doors in 2016 when the three local secondary schools amalgamated, always possessed numerous star players littered with vast underage inter-county experience, but often that didn’t materialise in Corn Uí Mhuirí success.
Despite the numerous quality footballers who walked through the gates of the famous school nursery, they only won three Corn Uí Mhuirí titles in their history in 1982, 1990, and 1991. O’Dwyer admits it is hard to believe their team was the last team to capture the Munster Championship.
It was a shame St Fachtna’s never achieved more success after our era. They had great teams, but they couldn’t get over the line.”
Along with three school team-mates, Fachtna Collins, Paul O’Rourke, and Sean Crowley, O’Dwyer helped the Cork minor footballers win the All-Ireland final in 1991.
He would go on to enjoy a brilliant career with his club O’Donovan Rossa and with various Cork teams, and also featured in Rossas’ senior county and All-Ireland victories in 1992 and 93, before helping the Cork U21 team win the All-Ireland final in 1994.
He was rewarded with an All-Star in 1999, though Meath denied him a senior Celtic Cross.
The brilliant goalkeeper has great memories from his illustrious playing career.
“After 1995, it went dry from a success point of view, unfortunately. It is nice to look back on those days. I have great memories. The main thing is I enjoyed it.”