The Naas CBS U16 team of 1985
PIC ABOVE: Front row L-R: Ciaran Haughian, Henry Murphy, Dara McKevitt, Paul O’Reilly, Thomas Trundle (capt), Mark Higgins, Andrew Dooley, Gary Bolger, Robbie Reilly. Middle row L-R Liam McManus (coach), Freddie Price, Martin Boran, Ger Casey, Jarleth Gilroy, Sean Dunne, Johnny McDonald, Tommy Lenihan, Brother Codd. Back row L-R: Niall McHugh, Sean Clarke, Colm O’Dowd, Kevin Daly, Tadhg Cassidy, Brendan Conway, Ray Hanley
The old corridors of Naas CBS didn’t hang heavy with pictures of sporting success in the early 90s.
Down the long catwalk that connected the then-new school, with the then old school, there were less than a handful of portraits from the field of sport and the centre-piece of that small collection was the framed image of the Naas CBS team — clad in yellow jerseys — that won the Junior A U16 Leinster Schools final in 1985.
This was notable, not least because some of the names involved.
Between classes, and when people got kicked out of class, this image underwent some intense scrutiny. But by then, the engineers of that success had long departed.
Robbie Reilly, Jarlath Gilroy, Dara McKeviitt and Johnny McDonald are but a handful of names from that team that people will recognise, and while they went on to better things, the legacy of this success almost certainly endures as a great memory for who were part of it.
London-based Ballymore man Brendan Conway played centre-forward on that Naas CBS team.
And following a weekend when Naas CBS made history by winning the Leinster Schools A Senior final, he remembers the famous class of ‘85.
“It felt like one half of the team was Ballymore and the other half Naas. It was incredible really because Ballymore didn’t have enough players to form a minor team on our own then and we had to amalgamate with Eadestown to form Oliver Plunketts.
“Typically, you might get one very good player, or maybe two from a parish. But even though we couldn’t field a team, there were five or six from Ballymore on that Naas CBS team who were very good, and Jarlath Gilroy was exceptional.
“We had grown up together and knew each other so well. It was the same for Ray Hanley, Johnny McDonald, Dara McKevitt and Robbie Reilly in Naas.
“Naas felt like a metropolis to us when we left primary school and we were a bunch of big rural lads arriving in from Ballymore.
“The team that eventually won the Leinster final originally came together in first year and it took more than four years for any team to beat us in that competition.
“I just remember an easy cohesion because we had come together in first year, and also, we played together at club level so we all knew each other very well.
“It wasn’t the case that we were playing to get out of class, there was a genuine passion and belief in the school team.
“Liam McManus was the coach and we had so many aces in the hole.
“Dara McKevitt would go on to captain Kildare in a National League final in 1990-91 and he was unmarkable, even back then, while Johnny McDonald could win a match on his own.
“But when I think about it now, everywhere on the pitch we players who could affect the result and we’d some lovely players in Tommy Lenihan from Jigginstown and Tommy Trundle was a brilliant captain.
“By the time the final came around we had this huge momentum behind us becase we’d hammered every team along the way.
“The whole school travelled to watch us play Portarlington CBS in Athy and I remember it being a wet day, that we didn’t play well but we won.
“There was a gala meal in Naas CBS afterward and all our parents were invited. The school made a big deal of it and then the picture was hung on the wall in the school.
“I think it’s still hanging somewhere. And I still have the winners medal in a drawer in Ballymore and while great young teams often drift away many on this team went onto to experience even greater success.
“Alongside a lot of the same personnel, I was lucky enough to be part of the Kildare team that beat Dublin in the 1987 Leinster final, before Down, and James McCarten, beat us in the All Ireland semi-final.
“I’ve lived away in London for some years now, but I’m sure like lots of players on the 1985 team, these are memories that are hard-wired into your soul.
“If I’m home and I bump into someone from the class of ‘85, there’s always a flash of recognition that we were all part of something special. That will always be the case for the class of 2018 too.”
Robert Mulhern is a London based journalist contracted to RTE's The Documentary on One
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