The Irish rugby star’s key role in Limerick DSL’s victory at the Kennedy Cup in 2000

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The Limerick and District Schoolboys League (LDSL) last won the Kennedy Cup in 2000, when current Ireland and Leinster rugby hooker Sean Cronin was a key member of the squad .

LDSL beat Cork Schoolboy League 3-1 in the final. The Leesiders included future Republic of Ireland international and current Stoke City player Stephen Ireland in their starting lineup.

Under the wise guidance of their behind-the-scenes team led by Noel Malone and Pauline Callaghan. Pat Halpin was also a key part of management, but was forced to miss UL’s action for health reasons.

Sixteen years have passed since, but Noel Malone’s memories of that famous week are crystal clear.

Noel Malone said: “I was managing the Caherdavin U-13s at the time and the guys from Schoolboy Council offered to manage the Kennedy Cup team with Pat Halpin and Pauline Callaghan.

“In the week of the tournament, Pat, unfortunately, fell ill.

“The team grew as the tournament progressed. We faced Clare in the first game and had a two-goal lead. Clare equalized, but in the dying minutes Thomas Clarke got the winner for us.

“We played Mayo in the next round and won 3-0. We were given the green light as far as we avoided the Dublin and District Schoolboy League, the DDSL.

“They faced Cork in the semi-final and lost 2-1 to them, while we beat Waterford 2-1.

“It was between us and Cork in the final. Stephen Ireland was part of the Cork team and I remember giving instructions to Dean Earls from Fairview to stay between him and our goals, to stay true to him.

“He did a great job in the first half. It was 1-1 at halftime. Dean picked up a dead leg and I called Paul Conway from Corbally to do what Dean did in the first half.

“Sean Cronin started in the final. He played on the left side of midfield for us.

“He had a physical presence around him. He was strong even then.

“I followed Sean’s progress to the end with Connacht, Leinster and Ireland.

“About five minutes into the second half of this 2000 Kennedy Cup final, we got a penalty. The Cork goalkeeper was injured and the game was put on a five-minute standstill.

“We had a gem in Colm Carroll, the tournament’s top scorer that year.

“Cool as a cucumber, he put the ball into the net to give us the advantage. We finally won the game 3-1. It was a victory.

“Cork was a favorite after knocking out DDSL. Stephen Ireland was a prodigy, the best they had had since Roy Keane had been Cork captain to win him over.

“It was a great victory. Sadly, the Limerick Leagues haven’t been able to match him since although they came close the following year with Johnny Walsh in charge.

“You absolutely need a little luck. You need luck with a draw and the day. You have to avoid injury. You have to have a prolific goalscorer and we had it with Colm Carroll scoring seven.

“The scouts, who arrive in the quarterfinals, were impressed and Colm was invited to Aston Villa, Doncaster and Nottingham Forest for testing. Pat Halpin did a great job in the six months leading up to the Kennedy Cup and obviously our physio Pauline Callaghan who kept the guys in shape.

Limerick has played six games in five days, taking five wins, a draw, scoring 14 goals and conceding just three.

LDSL Kennedy Cup 2000 Team: Keith Fitzgerald, Adrian Hyland, Kevin Young, Cillian Mullane, Cian Hunt, Dean Earls, Ivan Storan, Thomas Clarke, Colm Carroll, Niall Butterfield, Andrew Brennan, Darren Hanley, Paul Danagher, Gary Joyce, Gary Braddish , Sean Cronin, Brian Scales, Darren Glasheen, Paul Conway, Timothy Sheehan.


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