St. Brendan's College, Killarney

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St Brendan's College
St Brendan's College Killarney 150 Logo.jpg
St. Brendan's College 150th Anniversary Logo
TypeComprehensive secondary school
MottoScientia Navigare Fideque (Latin)
(To Sail Knowledge and Faith)
Religious affiliation(s)Catholic
OversightDiocese of Kerry
PrincipalSean Coffey
Enrolment800 (approx)
  • Urban
NicknameThe Sem

St. Brendan's College, known locally as The Sem, is a secondary school in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland.


St. Brendan's is a Catholic Diocesan College, founded in 1860 by Bishop David Moriarty as a boarding and day-school for boys under the name of ' St. Brendan's Seminary'. The first principal was Fr. Michael Barry, a renowned Professor of Rhetoric at All Hallows College.[1] Ill-health soon forced Fr. Barry to return to Dublin and Fr. Thomas Lalor replaced him. Fr. Lalor had the title, ‘Director’. The first principal to have the title ‘President’ was Fr. Lalor’s successor, Fr. John Coffey (later Bishop Coffey). The College began in a large room on the ground floor of the newly built Bishop’s House and boarders were accommodated in approved houses in the town. After the opening of the Presentation Monastery in 1861 some students lodged there. The land was rented from Lord Kenmare at a ‘peppercorn’ rent.

Gradually new classrooms and dormitories were built. The Tower wing was added to Bishop’s House in 1870, the main buildings took their present form as a result of extensive rebuilding in the 1890s, and a College Chapel, with professors’ rooms and dormitory accommodation overhead, was added to the Tower building in 1914. Further extensions followed in the 1930s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

By the 1970s the designation ‘seminary’ was no longer used and the school’s official title became ‘St. Brendan’s College’. However, the college is still known locally as ‘The Sem.’ In 1971 Dr. Tadhg McCurtin became the first lay vice- principal. In 1997 the first lay-principal, Mr. Tony Behan, was appointed and a board of management was set up to manage the school. Fr. Larry Kelly was President/Rector until the boarding school closed in 1999. He was the last in a succession of eighteen clerical presidents. In 1997 the college opened its doors to girls who wished to repeat the Leaving Cert.

Until the late 1960s diocesan clergy mainly staffed the College. A priest acted as President and school-principal. Gradually the number of lay-teachers increased and the last priest finished teaching in the College in 2006, a Fr. Begley.


The “Sem” has a proud sporting heritage in many codes with Gaelic Football being its most prominent. St Brendan's is one of the leading football schools in Kerry and Ireland and has served as a footballing nursery for a number of Kerry GAA players. St. Brendan's currently holds the record of most Munster Senior Football Titles won (22). The school has also won nine Frewen Cups (Munster U16½) and seven Moran Cups (Munster U15). The school achieved a double in these competitions in 2007. The school has won the Hogan Cup on four occasions in 1969, 1992, 2016 and 2017.[2] St. Brendan’s also takes part in Kerry Colleges competitions at Senior, U16½, U15 and First Year levels.

In more recent times Basketball has come to rival football in sporting success. The “Sem” plays in the South West Region at U19, U16, Second Year and First Year Levels. The school also takes part in national cup competition for the U19 and U16 age groups. The school has won four All-Ireland Titles to date, 1988 U19, 2005 U16 National Cup, First Year in 2006 followed by the Second Year title in 2007.

St. Brendan’s has also won four Munster titles in soccer since the mid 1990s and three national titles in 2001, 2003, 2014 and 2016 by our First Year, U16, U15 and First Year squads respectively. The school also competes in Athletics, Hurling, Golf, Pitch & Putt, Badminton, rowing, rugby and Squash.

Notable Past Pupils[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 September 2011. Retrieved 26 August 2013.
  2. ^

External links[edit]