In the lead up to last week’s Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup final between DCU and IT Carlow, an old photograph began doing the rounds on social media.
It was of the IT Tralee team before the 1998 Sigerson Cup final. The match took place in Austin Stack Park where the home side retained their title defeating Jordanstown (now UU) by two points.
It was the second in what would later become three-in-a-row (the only three they’ve won) for a star-studded IT Tralee team including Jim McGuinness, Michael Donnellan, Mike Frank Russell and Padraic Joyce.
The team: Pádraic Joyce, Barry O’Shea, William Kirby, Mark McGauran, Ger Cremin, Jim McGuinness, Michael Donnellan, Mick Galvin.
Front: Jack Ferriter, Seamus Moynihan, Pa O’Sullivan, Michael Cloherty (capt) Kenneth Leen, Mike Frank Russell, Damien Hendy. https://t.co/yTqJ8LLeWg
— Tony Leen (@tonyleen) January 31, 2020
The team included some very successful GAA names, however, none proved quite as iconic as legendary Kerry defender Seamus Moynihan, one of a select few stars revered in the Kingdom.
Known for winning four All-Irelands and three All-Stars across a glittering 14-year inter-county career, what many don’t know about Moynihan is that he also has four Sigerson Cup medals to his name. He won two titles with UCC between in 1994 and 1995 before winning two more with IT Tralee in 1997 and 1998.
Speaking to Pundit Arena earlier this week, the former All-Ireland winning captain reflected on his Sigerson Cup playing days with great joy.
“I loved it, Sigerson was great,” said Moynihan.
“It’s a fantastic competition in the sense that it gave you an opportunity to play with guys that you have clashed horns with in county. In UCC, there was a large portion of Cork and then a mixture of Limerick and Kerry, obviously a great rivalry between Kerry and Cork.
“That was hot while the green and gold jerseys played against the red jerseys but when we were with UCC, we were a great unit because we worked extremely hard. We trained early in the mornings, we trained late at night, we worked around guys being in college.
“In the few years I was there, we built up a great relationship with guys to the point where it’s 25 years on now since I was in UCC and we’re meeting up in April now, a gang of us for a reunion and that’ll be fun. With the WhatsApp group going on, it only feels like yesterday with some of the memories and the banter that’s going on.
“I have great memories, and great memories from Tralee as well, obviously. I played with some fantastic players like Padraic Joyce and Michael Donnellan and Jim McGuinness, you had Barry Sheahan, William Kirby so there was a huge amount of talent there.
“Those guys worked equally hard. We clashed horns a lot with Galway after that period of time so there was a good rivalry there but a healthy relationship because of the fact we played Sigerson together.”
Moynihan played on a few star-studded and triumphant Sigerson Cup teams. However, the long-held theory that a team needs a wealth inter-county fire-power in order to achieve success was almost debunked last week when IT Carlow qualified for a first-ever final possessing one of the lesser-known squads in the competition.
Moynihan feels stories like IT Carlow’s and Letterkenny IT (who made the semi-finals in their first attempt) is what captures the beauty of the Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup.
“That’s the beauty of the Sigerson when you look at the likes of IT Carlow and Letterkenny going as far as they did go,” he said.
“That is the whole essence of Sigerson. It’s not about the big names, over the years when I was involved, so many big names fell on the big occasion. The likes of David [Clifford] and Con O’Callaghan, they’ve so many balls in the air, it’s so hard to juggle and you’re trying to get the balance right.
“You’re trying to perform well in a Sigerson, you’re also thinking about inter-county, club. Sometimes you get, like we had (at UCC), a group of players with no major out-and-out senior player so we could really fully concentrate on the Sigerson and have everyone training.
“You build up a rapport, a comradery and no doubt Carlow had that. I would imagine that they bought into it big time. They went down to Tralee, no one expected them to beat Tralee in their back garden and they did and they beat UCC as well.
“They were two huge scalps. It was a fantastic voyage and a fantastic achievement that they got to the Electric Ireland Sigerson final. It just shows what can be done when you’ve a bunch of fellas who are willing to train hard during the period of Sigerson and to give it 100% and they should feel very proud of themselves.”
Increasingly the Electric Ireland Higher Education competitions have felt under threat due to the ongoing debate surrounding the GAA fixture calendar.
Moynihan is disappointed by the narrative following the competitions and feels there should be a special period of time set aside for the highly prestigious tournaments.
“I’m disappointed with that,” he said.
“To be fair, there’s so much going on at the minute but the Sigerson deserves better than that. I think the managers and the players involved, people who have a real genuine interest in it deserve better than that. I think there should be a special period of time set aside for the Sigerson, it’s been really squashed in.
“Billy Morgan was giving out that they were playing their first game and everybody was off on holidays, they weren’t even back in college yet and players were playing.
It’s not just Billy, there’s other managers saying they found it so hard to get collective training sessions because they’re being pulled and dragged by inter-county managers.
“It’s just disappointing that players are not given that opportunity, during the winter period when the All-Ireland is so far away, that they’re not given the chance to exclusively play Sigerson, especially when most of them are under scholarships. You have O’Byrne Cups, McKenna Cups, McGrath Cups, at the end of the day, senior teams should have loads of players to play for them.
“If a guy is playing Sigerson, they should be let play with the Sigerson and once that’s over then, then they row back in with the county.
Back in our time, that was always the case. Ogie [Denis Moran] and Páidi [Ó’Sé], they always let players play Sigerson, they knew it was a good competition and they knew when they got the players back, they were in good nick, they had played a lot of football and done a lot of training in the winter period. I think Sigerson should be afforded that window of opportunity.
“Sigerson is going nowhere, it shouldn’t go anywhere, it’s a fantastic competition and it just deserves its right place in the calendar. Inter-county managers, the buck stops with them and they need to ensure that these players are allowed play with their Sigerson teams when it’s on.”
Electric Ireland’s Sigerson, Fitzgibbon and Higher Education Championship campaign, FirstClassRivals, showcases the unique trait of these historic GAA competitions that sees unexpected alliances form when fierce county rivals put aside their differences to play together, challenge together, and win together.
Electric Ireland is proud to support the Higher Education Championships and will live stream a selection of Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cup games. Watch the games and follow the Championship at www.electricireland.ie/hec and be a part of the conversation on social media using the hashtag, #FirstClassRivals or visit @ElectricIreland on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.