Cork GAA will have fight on its hands to hang onto top prospect
"We came here to win today."
The words of Patrick Campbell, in 2019, after he inspired Cork's minors to an All-Ireland semi-final victory over Mayo.
Two years on and Campbell could be set to make his senior debut for Munster Rugby, against Wasps in the Champions Cup, after the senior squad was hit by positive Covid cases. The Cork native was added, on Tuesday, to Munster's European squad along with other top academy prospects.
In his SportsJOE match report, back in 2019, Niall McIntyre wrote, 'Patrick Campbell, that sharpshooter from Nemo Rangers was the main man for the Rebels who got goals at the right times to keep Mayo at arms' length the whole game long.
'It was Cork's day... That man Campbell made sure of it. There were no less than six minutes on the clock when he drew first blood for the Reds. A loose Mayo kick-out was latched onto before he punished the goalkeeper with an exhibition for a rounded finish.'
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) August 10, 2019
Campbell was named Cork's player of the match and while Galway restricted him to just 0-1 in the final, he contributed up, down and across Croke Park, two weeks later, as the Rebels took home the title.
Campbell is highly regarded down Cork way, but the inter-county footballers may have a fight on their hands to keep him. The teenager is in his final year at Presentation Brothers College, in Cork's city centre, and has his sights on Munster Senior Cup glory with that storied school.
PBC has produced the likes of Tom Kiernan, Michael Bradley, Peter Stringer, Frankie Sheahan, Ronan O'Gara, Peter O'Mahony, Shane Daly, Simon Zebo and the Scannell brothers - Niall, Rory and Billy. Led by current Munster prospect Jack O'Sullivan, PBC last won the Munster Senior Schools Cup in 2017 (pictured below). They lost the 2019 final to fierce rivals Christians Brothers College and look set to go far in the 2020 competition.
Campbell has been starting fullback for Pres this season and he wore the No.15 jersey in the school's quarter final win over Crescent College. Next up are St Munchin's from Limerick and no-one at the storied Cork school is taking them lightly, despite their last cup win being back in 2006.
Don Crowley, a long-time teacher and coach at Pres, speaks highly of Campbell's potential, and his contribution to the team. He tells us:
"Pat won an All-Ireland minor medal with Cork and he would have been one of their main men and leading scorers. He played centre forward and full forward in that campaign. He's also involved in the Irish Schools (rugby) set-up at the moment."
"Rugby is our main sport in the school," Buckley adds, "but we've often benefitted from that cross pollination. We've had guys coming in that may have been very good at GAA but have never played rugby before. A good example of that is Patrick, who has been lining out for us at fullback.
"Pat's background is GAA and he's only really come to us since Junior (Cup) and he was only able to give us his full commitment after his All-Ireland campaign was over. I think it's a win-win, rather than one experience being exclusive to another. Our players play all sorts of sports, and are permitted to do so, while also being conscious of their Junior and Senior Cup commitments when they are involved."
Although the Munster scouts will know all about Campbell, a successful run to the final and a Senior Cup win - in a high-pressure situation - would only add to his appeal more. Cork, meanwhile, will be looking to get him involved in their Under 20 squad in the coming months.
The Campbell situation brings to mind another Cork minor star that is now gainfully employed at Munster Rugby. Darren Sweetnam played senior hurling in 2012, but opted to go down the rugby route offered to him by Munster. Sweetnam is now into his seventh season as a rugby pro and has three Ireland caps to his name.
"When Darren committed full-time to rugby," says former Munster teammate Johnny Holland, "it was a big loss to GAA. Even the lads that I'm in with at Cork (senior hurling and football) would still talk about him. It is competitive, here, trying to get the guys to play the sport you're invested in.
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