Flanked by Keir Bloomer, his number two in the Association of Directors of Education, O'Neill recalled the good old days when Bloomer was on an interview panel that rejected him for a quality assurance post in Strathclyde's famed "securitate".
Perhaps his presentation had something to do with it: depicting a leather-clad stormtrooper breaking down the school doors was not calculated to tickle the Strathclyde sense of humour of the day.
Another veteran who stalled the ambitious youngster on the same panel was John Mulgrew, then a senior Strathclyde man and now director in East Ayrshire. Mulgrew, curiously, has also belatedly followed O'Neill into the top echelons of the ADES; he is the new vice-president. Both Bloomer and Mulgrew, we should add, eventually chose O'Neill for an adviser's post.
So far as we know Gordon Jeyes, Stirling's director (of everything except roads and housing, it seems), has never rejected O'Neill for anything. Perhaps that is why the outspoken young Turk is the new general secretary, taking over from Anne Wilson of Dundee (to whom he lost narrowly in a previous contest).