When the Sports Editor suggested I write a column with a yarn or two about winning a MacRory Cup with St Michael’s in 1999 I was sceptical. Primarily because I didn’t want to ponder the fact that 20 years has passed in an instant.

And thinking it through, things got worse. It struck me that I am older now than Dom Corrigan was then. Jesus wept, that is scary.

It also landed like a hammer blow that these young cubs playing for St Michael’s now, were not born in 1999. Indeed, most were a good bit off it yet.

Things were very different then. No twitter, no smart phones, the art of real conversation was alive. The millennium bug was threatening to bring the digital world crashing down. A dry-cleaned black dress was threatening to bring the Presidency of America crashing down. Meath were winning their second All Ireland in four seasons. Dublin were no-where to be seen.

It is a different world now. The young fellas pulling on the maroon and blue next Monday know nothing of a time when you faced the stress and strain of having to phone a girl’s house to talk to her. Who remembers the first time they had to do that? For me it was third year. A girl had given her number to a friend, who in turn gave it to a lad in my class who shared her bus, who then gave it to me in school. Such a rigmarole for a scrap of paper.

Later that night I took the cordless phone upstairs, dialled the number, sweat hopping off me hoping her Da didn’t pick up at the far end. Inevitably he did. And with a voice that ranged from Barry White to Alvin the Chipmunk, such were the ravages of puberty, I summoned up the courage to ask to speak to Helen (real name changed to save her blushes). Those were the days.

But you know, as much as some things change other things remain the same. Visiting St Michael’s last week to carry out some interviews for the game I was struck by the buzz in the school. The atmosphere was the same as 20 years ago. The players were happy and relaxed. Confident and focused. It felt familiar.

The MacRory Cup is special. For me it was something of a holy grail. I had known about it long before starting at the school in September 1991. The new extension to the school was being built that year. The school was half the size and we had only ever won one MacRory Cup, way back in 1973.

I remember looking at a picture of Frank Cassidy that hung on the wall. He was scoring a goal in that final. I had no idea who Frank Cassidy was, but he became an instant hero. He represented the fact that St Michael’s could be the best, and by extension that Fermanagh could be the best.

Just seven months later we won our second MacRory. Heroes walked among us now. Raymie Gallagher, Shane King, Archie Greene, all of whom I would go on to play with for Fermanagh. But, at the time Mark O’Donnell was the man for me. Corner forward, lighting quick and a brilliant finisher.

As I went through St Michael’s two Rannafast finals were lost and on three occasions I was part of MacRory teams than bowed out at the quarter final stage, a replay against St Pat’s Dungannon in 1996 the best we could muster. We trained hard, had great players but could never get over the hump. That all changed in 99.

It was Dom’s first year in charge. In May 98 he took us away to play St Mel’s Longford in a friendly. Ten months before the MacRory final of the following year. There was a weekend bonding trip to Galway before the quarter final the following year. Best to leave some of those stories untold.

Double All Ireland winner, Tommy Dowd, was brought down from Meath to take some training sessions before the final. And we made our way to Casement Park with a certainty that we were going to beat St Colman’s. A lot of people made hay with the 5/2 that was offered on us in the bookies.

Looking back, in terms of memories the game itself is sketchy, but it is funny what other memories have moved to the forefront. Shaking my Dad’s hand through the wire after the game. Seeing a beaming Hugh McCabe in the Casement Park bar afterwards. Him querying if I really meant that first goal, laughing as he did. His son Shane chipping in that I didn’t. You will never know Shane.

The MacRory Cup is important in its own right, of course it is, and when you win one a kinship is formed with your team-mates that lasts. But it is more important than just a schools competition. In the past there has been an integral smattering of Tyrone players in successful teams but being the only school in Fermanagh that competes at MacRory level I always thought St Michael’s had the ability the raise expectations of those who compete in it.

St Comhghall’s did the same when they won the All Ireland in the mid-90s. When St Michael’s win a MacRory it lifts the spirits of the whole county and more importantly it gives the players the validation that they are as good as anyone else, in fact it gives them the validation that for that year, they are better than anyone else. And for their future it tells them that they do not have to settle for second best in their footballing endeavours.

I bang on a lot about the importance of Fermanagh clubs doing well in Ulster. One of the reasons for this is that it breeds an innate and unseen confidence that coaching cannot instil. When St Michael’s win it acts like a rising tide.

But on Monday none of that will matter to the players. They are focused on just one goal. Getting that trophy. Securing their place on the wall.

Thankfully Frank has some company up there now, and he might well have some more come Monday evening.