Dr Harty Cup semi-final, Midleton CBS v De La Salle Waterford, Fraher Field, 1.30pm
WE have been here before with these two sides; their opening game in the competition was a clash in Dungarvan.
On that day in October, the sides could not be separated, with Midleton CBS depending on a late, late equaliser from one of their star players, Ross O’Regan, to secure the group point.
That group contained just three teams: the Cork side, tomorrow’s opponents, and St Flannan’s, with two of the three making the knockout stages. Both teams defeated the famed Ennis school, Midleton doing so comprehensively, 2-19 to 1-10.
Both sides have played one game since, Midleton CBS easily accounting for Our Lady’s Templemore, delivering seven goals in the process and being hugely impressive.
De La Salle Waterford had a superb win over one of the more fancied sides in the competition, St Colman’s Fermoy, and that will do a lot for their confidence.
In the first instalment between tomorrow’s opponents, there was very little between the sides and both teams are far better now and know each other a lot more, too.
Midleton CBS are, of course, the last Cork side to have won the Harty, back in 2006, when a number of that side went on to play senior hurling with Cork.
The current Midleton CBS side is highly regarded. A few of the side were involved in last season’s final loss to Ard Scoil Rís, who were simply much better.
There is a great need now for a Cork school to be successful again in the Harty Cup. And both Midleton CBS and Christians, who face Thurles CBS this weekend, are seen as genuine contenders for the title.
But for Midleton CBS it’s all about this return to Dungarvan tomorrow.
Both sides will have learned bits and pieces from their first meeting and how they respond to whatever didn’t work out that day will be crucial.
Midleton CBS have been very impressive in their two subsequent games and taking the scalp of St Flannan’s was a notable victory.
The team has a strong balance to it, in defence, midfield, and in attack.
The attack, in particular, has been putting up good scores and, the last day, against Our Lady’s Templemore, they had Kian Farmer and Jason Hankard belting in four goals between them, a brace apiece.
Ross O’Regan was called into the Cork senior squad for the recent Munster League and is a hugely promising player.
Joe Stack is another player that continues on an upward trajectory and has the ability to cause all sorts of bother in an opposing defence. Hankard, too, has great aerial ability, while Gary Carroll and Cathal Hickey are fine hurlers, too.
Ciaran Joyce is a top-class defender, while Dylan Healy and Darragh Moran are assertive. Sam Quirke and Ryan McCarthy are a fine midfield pairing, in a side that will be high on confidence.
Of course, De La Salle will be, too, after that victory over St Colman’s, and they have a very solid bunch of players.
Midleton CBS will be aware of the threat of Conor Power and of his free-taking ability, while Tom Gallagher will capitalise on any Midleton defensive mistakes.
Mark Kilgannon is a fine goalkeeper and proved his worth against St Colman’s, while others, like Cian Wadding, Alan Kirwan, and young Mark Fitzgerald add further backbone to the team.
There was little or nothing between the teams when they met in the group game and there shouldn’t be here, either.
However, one has reason to believe that Midleton CBS are a far stronger proposition now and that, in particular, they have a stronger threat in front of goal.
If Moran and Hankard receive the right type of ball, they can set up the others for the scores that will make the difference.
It will be close again, but the tendency is to stick with Midleton CBS to make it back to the final.
Verdict: Midleton CBS.