On Friday last, Brendan McCole was back in the Abbey Vocational School, Donegal Town with two cups - the fruits of his first year in life in third level education.
Brendan joined Dublin City University (DCU) last September and was immediately installed as captain of the Freshers (First Years) GAA team.
He did not let his side down as they won both the Freshers League and Championship to secure a clean sweep for the Dublin college.
There were plenty of admiring glances in his direction as he took the cups to the Library in the school on Friday where he was introduced to a number of the Leaving Cert class who are pondering their future come next September.
Brendan was accompanied by Michael Kennedy, Head of GAA at DCU, who gave a talk to the students about the DCU experience and how they would be looked after, whether they were pursuing a sporting dream or an academic experience.
Brendan also spoke to the students, but you could see his discomfort as many of those in front of him were classmates just 12 months ago.
“It’s a difference experience, coming back into the school. It’s not something many students do. But it’s a superb day to come back with two trophies,” said Brendan, who said he was very honoured to have been made captain of the Freshers at DCU.
“I don’t think anyone goes up to Dublin with the expectation that you are going to be DCU captain and come back with two trophies. It definitely is a dream come true.
The St. Naul’s club man said he had captained the Abbey VS to win the Markey Cup last year and had also been captain at some underage levels for his club.
“But nothing compared to DCU,” said Brendan, who doesn’t really want to talk about his leadership qualities.
“I consider the team to be the whole leadership. I wouldn’t just point out one person,” said Brendan.
With a clean sweep at Freshers level, making his senior debut for Donegal and firing a goal after his introduction; going on to win an Ulster U-21 Championship, it has been a whirlwind year. However, there was one day of disappointment, the All-Ireland U-21 semi-final against Dublin in Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan.
When pointed out to him that he was doing his best to lift the team when they were flat in the second half, urging them on like a captain, he responds: “Being captain or not being captain doesn’t have anything to do with my performance. I go all out every day. That (defeat to Dublin) was the most disappointing so far of the year. It was heartbreaking.
“It was a hectic week, but that’s the way it was. We were well prepared for Dublin; we just didn’t perform on the day,” said Brendan.
“Dublin are a good team but we would like to think that we could have done a lot better.
“We enjoyed our Ulster U-21 win and nobody can take that away from us,” said Brendan.
Because of his involvement with the Donegal senior and U-21 squads, he hasn’t had much time for club duty, but was happy to get back last week.
“It was good to get back last week; we have five from five so far in the league,” said Brendan, who helped his side win the Donegal Junior Gaeltacht title on Monday, getting among the goals in their final win over Cloughaneely on Monday.
“John McNulty is doing alright. We took him with open arms and everyone is flying fit. We were missing a few last year, Barry (Griffin) and Stuart (Johnston). They are massive help to be back. You need a full squad every week in Division Two.
“We have Glenfin away on Sunday in the league and we will have Peadar (Mogan) back for that game too,” said Brendan.
As for trying to improve things at DCU, Brendan says he is hopeful that there will be more Donegal lads in the Dublin college next year.
“I’ll be trying my best to get a few of these lads down, the likes of Aaron and Peadar and Thomas. They are trying their best to get more Donegal lads down,” said Brendan. When put to him that there might not be enough room in his car, Brendan laughs: “There’ll be no bother with the car load. We’ll get them down some way.
“From the sounds of it we would be hopeful of getting a few of them.
“DCU look after all their students. I couldn’t fault them in the slightest,” said Brendan, who said that there were quite a number of good footballers on the Freshers team this year.
“Micheal Bannigan of Monaghan; he actually started against Donegal in the National League in Ballyshannon. We have a few boys from Sligo and Shay Ryan from Kildare, another senior player.
“We had an abundance of talent. We were blessed. It was a dream come true to be made captain. It was a great honour,” said Brendan, said he would be hoping to look towards the Sigerson Cup team next year.
Brendan will have plenty of company and competition for a place on the Sigerson Cup team from his Donegal county teammates. Cian Mulligan, Caolan McGonigle and Conor Morrison are already in DCU and were part of the Sigerson panel this year.
Brendan hopes to qualify as a teacher and is pursuing a course, Education in Training: “It’s a great course with a wide variety of options at the end of the three years, with Primary or Secondary school teaching or business. I would be hoping to go into Primary School teaching,” said Brendan, who said he was in no rush into the real world yet.