SATURDAY in Páirc Uí Rinn will live long in the memory of those of a Cork GAA persuasion – and hopefully in years to come will be regarded as an occasion which provided the springboard for success at the top level.
Circumstances conspired so that both the Dr Harty Cup (Munster PPS U19 A HC) and Tom Collum Cup (U19 B HC) deciders were all-Cork affairs, with Midleton CBS and Rochestown’s St Francis College taking the honours.
An excellent crowd of 7,089 bore witness to proceedings and then, to top it off, 4,737 were present later in the evening – some having hung around since earlier – as Cork claimed their first hurling league win, beating Clare.
The latter victory wasn’t of huge import, especially as there is no relegation from Division 1A this year, but it certainly added to the feelgood factor from the schools' games, even if it was a game that seemed like it would almost certainly be won by the visitors.
Clare had six points from Tony Kelly and four each from John Conlon and Ian Galvin, all from play, but their defensive indiscipline proved costly, allowing Patrick Horgan to convert no fewer than 15 frees.
However, the manner of the win hardly mattered and victory of any kind can provide an infusion of confidence – how the Cork football team would love a win, any win, as they bid to keep their place in Division 2.
In any case, Saturday was always about the post-primary finals. For too long, Paudie O’Sullivan has been lumbered with the unwanted statistic of being the last captain of a Harty-winning team from Cork, one passing further into the distance with each year. Finally, he can pass that mantle to another Midleton skipper, their full-back Dylan Hogan.
While the traditional perception of a number three is to be a man-mountain who will claim high balls and bounce off a few attackers before launching a booming clearance, Hogan turns that on its head but is no poorer for it.
Not the biggest, he doesn’t need to be because his reading of the game is so good, and his exemplary performance was part of an excellent ensemble display. Little wonder that Jamie Wall, the Mary Immaculate College Fitzgibbon Cup manager, expressed the hope on Twitter that Hogan had good Irish and was good with kids so that he might consider a primary-teaching course at the Limerick institution.
There were so many others who played well, too, with the game of high quality and while Midleton came out on top, Christian Brothers College can take pride in their performance. When it came down to it, Midleton took their goal chances while it wasn’t CBC’s day in terms of raising green flags. However, they can take heart in that, each year since returning to the Harty, they have improved on their showings and so a repeat of that would take them all the way.
Likewise, while Bandon’s Hamilton High School lost out to Rochestown in the B final, 11 of their team are underage again for 2019-20 and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were to ascend to the Harty. Paul O’Riordan’s goal 16 seconds into the game was ultimately the difference and Rochestown have been no strangers to the Harty in recent years so the step up won’t be beyond them.
We mentioned Jamie Wall above and this week the Kilbrittain man will be occupied with the task of trying to win a second Fitzgibbon Cup in three years for Mary I – in addition to his law and accounting studies at UL, that is.
Opposing them in the final will be UCC, who haven’t won the competition since 2013, when they overcame a Mary I side with Wall playing in it. It will be another chance to showcase the best Cork has to offer, with UCC laden with the best Leeside talent such as Jack Barry, Eddie Gunning, Niall O’Leary, Chris O’Leary, David Griffin, Eoghan Murphy, Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston and Robbie O’Flynn.
As well as that, lining out in blue and red will be Cork panellists Luke Meade and Darren Browne as Colin O’Brien of Liscarroll, Grenagh’s Seán Bourke and Brian Buckley from Dromina.
While the Fitzgibbon is useful in developing players who have just broken on to the inter-county scene, it can also be invaluable for those who have been overlooked before then – Séamus Harnedy and Stephen Moylan are just two Cork hurlers in recent times who may not have gained Rebel recognition without the Fitz.
It promises to be a great game and, luckily for those of us unable to make it to the WIT complex in Carriganore (Cork-Meath in the NFL will occupy us on Saturday evening), coverage on TG4 will be nearly as good.