THE GOOD COUNSEL - KERRY CONNECTION
This Tuesday 28th April 2015 sees the final of the All Ireland Post Primary Schools Junior Football between the holders - Good Counsel College, New Ross and the challengers – St. Brendan’s College, Killarney. Few, if anyone, attending this much anticipated final, will be aware of the strong historical connections between Good Counsel and the Kerry Football tradition – connections which originated almost a century ago. In recent decades Good Counsel have become Ireland’s leading dual college in both hurling and football and has a proud track record of success in both codes.
Situated in New Ross the school draws its student population largely from South West Wexford and South East Kilkenny. It is understandable that the strong hurling tradition of these catchment areas would account for the hurling successes, but strange to relate it was in football that Good Counsel became a prominent nursery long before it made hurling progress. Where did this tradition come from and how did this happen ? The simple answer is that it came largely from the Kerry connection. The early Augustinian friars who founded Good Counsel as a boarding school in the centre of New Ross at the beginning of the twentieth century were concerned to attract quality students who might later become Augustinians. They established a bursary scheme called the JKL scholarship (named after Dr. James Doyle an Augustinian Priest who later became the Bishop of the Diocese of Kildare and Loughlin) to attract bright youngsters from primary schools across the country in promoting this scheme they targeted Cork, Dublin, Limerick and in particular Kerry. From the 1930’s onwards the Good Counsel boarders were in the main drawn from these counties and in particular from Kerry.
This had an immediate effect on the promotion of Gaelic football as the school’s main sport. Though still a small school of some eighty boarders with very few ‘day boys’ it began to “fight above its weight” in the Leinster Colleges football competitions.
Its major break through came in the 1950 – 51 season when it beat St. Finians, Mullingar to become the Leinster junior football champions. That final has gone down in the folklore of Leinster college’s football as one of the greater finals ever. That Good Counsel team was backboned by a strong Kerry contingent. Outstanding amongst these were the late Kevin Coffey who later played at the centre back for Kerry and the late Eric Ryan an outstanding Kerry minor who later transferred to Cork and played at centre field against Louth in the 1957 all Ireland. The name of the late, great, Eamon Young of Cork must also get an honourable mention. Over the years many other Kerry natives played a prominent role in the successes of Good Counsel and our sister college St. Augustines, Dungarven.
This football tradition dominated in Good Counsel until the boarding ceased and it became a day school in the nineteen eighties. By then the footballing tradition of Good Counsel had been well and truly established. Another important aspect of this Good Counsel Kerry connection was the number of Kerry students who joined the Augustinian Order and became distinguished as missionaries over the world. One such outstanding person was the late Fr. Michael Heffernan from Castleisland who remained a lifelong strong Kerry supporter and was president of the Kerry association in Dublin for many years. The ‘Kerry factor’ in the Good Counsel’s football tradition continues to this day and as a past student and player with Good Counsel I hope to be a proud spectator as the Kerry and the Wexford-Kilkenny footballing students clash for the first time. I am a strong follower and supporter of Good Counsel. I would like to see them win. From another perspective as a Kilkenny man and admirer of Kerry I see this final it as a win-win situation.
Fr. Michael Mernagh OSA