IN the gap from Midleton’s Harty Cup victory in 2006 and their win over Christians last weekend, Waterford schools landed four Hartys and Ardscoil Rís from Limerick an incredible five.
The Cork faithful were tearing their hair out as one of the bastions of their hurling tradition was eroded. The impact of that was felt across the inter-county teams.
Now that Midleton are kingpins once more, with Christians running them so close at Páirc Uí Rinn last weekend, one of the hoodoos that held Cork hurling back has ended.
Undoubtedly that will make a difference when the likes of Declan Hanlon, Joe Stack, Ross O’Regan and Padraig Power pull on the Rebel red again in the future.
Both schools move into the knockout stages of the All-Ireland Colleges series, which will give a host of promising hurlers – from Midleton’s Ciarán Joyce, Dylan Hogan, Cathal Hickey and Darragh Moran to CBC’s Shane Barrett, Niall Hartnett and Jack Cahalane – further big-game exposure.
Every hurler left it all out there last Saturday. Indeed Midleton defender Cormac O'Brien, the son of Games Development Administrator and hurling fanatic Paudie, lined out on the day his grandmother was buried. He honoured her in the best possible way by earning an elusive medal.
While we can be guilty of drawing correlations between underage and senior that aren’t always logical, the Waterford and Limerick hurlers have made it to the last two All-Ireland finals – at Cork’s expense – backboned by Harty Cup winners. Those Harty trophies mattered because they gave their rising stars confidence to expect the best at county minor and beyond.
In recent years Cork schools have been pretty competitive in the Harty, with Charleville, Rochestown, St Colman’s and Midleton contesting finals.
Roco got their hands on a trophy last Saturday in the Munster B decider when beating Hamilton High School from Bandon, who reached a Harty semi-final themselves when Michael Cahalane and Luke Meade were key players.
There have been notable victories in other grades from Pres and Ballincollig Community School at U16 ½ to Mitchelstown CBS in last season’s senior B.
Thanks to principal Donal Ó Buachalla, Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG are hugely committed to hurling and there’s no doubting the contribution Cork senior selector Donal O’Mahony has made in guiding CBC back into the Harty and all the way to a final. Some will snipe at Christians drawing in young hurlers from all corners of Cork, and a couple from Waterford, but most wouldn’t be performing at the highest level otherwise.
Midleton have some excellent teams now from First Year up to Leaving Cert but it takes shrewd management to harvest a Harty Cup. Full credit, therefore, must go to selectors Iain Cooney, Brian O’Callaghan and James Mulcahy in that regard.
It’s not too long ago that Cork hurling appeared to be in the wilderness. This schools upsurge is further proof the decline has been halted.
You couldn't even begin to namecheck all those contributing to the Cork cause because of the buy-in across the board.
From the GDAs to the schools' coaches funded by clubs, from those in charge of the raw cubs at U6 to those involved with the development squads, minors and U21s, there's a collective push to ensure Cork teams aren't on the outside looking in any more. Colm Crowley was on the line with Bandon and his brother Seán involved with Midleton. Clearly, the GDA work and more besides is reaping a rich reward.