Twelve years ago, he broke their hurling hearts but at the weekend, European election hopeful Senator John Paul Phelan was back at St Kieran’s College in his native Kilkenny on a very different mission.
The brave Senator – who only recently kicked off his Euro campaign - took time out of his canvass to ‘expand the minds’ of pupils at the school.
By expanding the minds, what the young Senator was really up to was explaining to them how local and European politics work as part of the Oireachtas Education Outreach Programme.
The 29 year-old south Kilkenny man was entering a lion’s den of sorts – well a cat’s den at the very least, as Senator Phelan was part of the Good Counsel College side which defeated St. Kieran’s in the Leinster Colleges hurling final of 1997.
On the losing side that day and togged out for St Kieran’s were now household names and hurling legends such as Henry Shefflin, Michael Kavanagh and many other greats.
“It’s fantastic to be here and to have an opportunity to explain to the second years at St Kieran’s how local, national and European governments work. You’re never too young to be involved in or get enthusiastic about politics,” he said, knowing that many of these students will soon have a vote!
“The students here will be the leaders of tomorrow and I’ve been very encouraged by the interest they have shown in the workings of government,” he said.
“I developed an interest in politics around the same age and I was very fortunate to be elected to Kilkenny County Council on my first attempt in June 1999.”
The second year students were tough opponents with hard-hitting questions for Senator Phelan and other politicians gathered in areas such as the future of e-voting machines, their expenses and the common quandary – Bertie or Brian!