Christians always had hurlers but it took vision to develop a Harty Cup culture

Christians always had hurlers but it took vision to develop a Harty Cup culture
Cork hurler Robbie O'Flynn excelled for Christian Brothers in the Harty Cup.Picture: Gareth Williams/Press 22

AT this time of the year the conversation in the halls and classrooms of CBC would be focused very much on the Munster Schools Senior Rugby Cup.

Some of Ireland’s greatest oval ball players began their careers in the school on Sidney Hill off Wellington Road.

Noel Murphy, Donal Lenihan, Donncha O’Callaghan, Tomás O’Leary, and Jerry Holland are some of the names that have brought glory to the old school.

Christians have won the Munster Cup on 30 occasions, one more than PBC, and they are on course again for another title when they take on Rockwell College in the semi-final next week.

In recent times, however, another sporting code has been capturing the headlines in the school, its bid for a first Dr Harty Cup title.

Niall Hartnett, CBC, takes on Ciaran O'Brien, Daire O'Leary and Darragh Daly, St Colman's, in the Harty Cup quarter-final. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Niall Hartnett, CBC, takes on Ciaran O'Brien, Daire O'Leary and Darragh Daly, St Colman's, in the Harty Cup quarter-final. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Huge strides have been made with the small ball in the past few years and the entire school will be fully behind the boys who are hoping to go one better than last season and collect the famed silverware.

In many ways it’s a remarkable story, a rugby institution bidding for a major hurling honour.

Midleton CBS denied them in the final last season, that defeat was avenged in the semi-final a few weeks ago and now it’s the final frontier against Harty specialists, St Flannan’s from Ennis.

Gavin Reddy, CBC, battles Eoghan Martin, Midleton CBS. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Gavin Reddy, CBC, battles Eoghan Martin, Midleton CBS. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Team coach Tony Wall takes up the story.

“We have only four starters from last year, another, Robbie Cotter came on as a sub. So, it’s very much a new team. I suppose, realistically, we thought that last year’s team, even the year before, they were the really strong teams that we had.

“But we came out this year with these lads and it has taken on a life of its own really and we might have underestimated ourselves at the start because it’s a very young team and the Harty is a very physical competition, a very tough competition.

“But after we played Templemore in the group stage we thought, hang on a minute, we might have something here and we might have underestimated ourselves.’’

Getting through a tough qualifying group presented plenty of challenges, but they ended up winning it and the belief grew.

“It was a tough group, ourselves, Rochestown, Ard Scoil Rís, Templemore, nothing easy there, but we ended up winning the group and that was a fantastic achievement with a team so young.’’

It didn’t, however, get any easier, two more cup specialists in the quarter and semi-finals.

“We got home by the skin of our teeth against both Midleton and Colman’s, but those wins showed that there is a lot of character in the players.

“At the same time it’s a bit of a worry that we are not consistent at times over the 60 minutes. We are having lull periods and we have been trying to iron that out.

“ A lot of the players, even though they were not starting last year, got game time at various stages and the Harty Cup, as I said, is very physical, but the lads have adapted to it, have a better idea of what’s required in trying to close out a game.

“Sometimes it’s not about scoring 2-19 or whatever, it’s about keeping your nose in front and taking critical scores.”

Joint coaches Tony Wall and Traolach Martin. Picture: George Hatchell
Joint coaches Tony Wall and Traolach Martin. Picture: George Hatchell

Now it’s Flannan’s, the most successful Harty school of all time.

“I suppose there’s a bit of freedom in that for us, as we don’t have any expectations. At the same time when you play the traditional sides they expect to win and it’s in their pedigree that they would be successful and competitive at this level all the time. To come back after a long absence, they are going to be very hungry, they’ll have a huge support.

“From our perspective we have to respect them because of their history in this competition. We are trying to create our own history, our own tradition and this is a chance for us to get our name on the ladder."

So how did this great adventure, this new found emphasis on hurling begin in Christians?

“We were playing in the Lord Mayor’s Cup for a while without any great direction or intention of going anywhere.

“The two people, Dr Larry Jordan, our former principal, and Donal O’Mahony, they were really the driving force behind it.

“Your job in a school is to cater for as many students as you can, inside and outside the classroom.

“We had good hurlers in the school, Billy Hennessy, Robert Downey, Tommy O’Connell, Robbie O’Flynn, we had an opportunity to develop a hurling culture and it took a lot of vision and courage on Donal and Larry’s part, a big step in a rugby school but, touch wood, so far it has paid off."

Tommy O’Connell hurling for Christians. Picture: Dan Linehan
Tommy O’Connell hurling for Christians. Picture: Dan Linehan

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