SO often in sport, we see a team or an individual striving for success in a competition and their journey being similar to that of Robert Bruce watching the spider.
Munster in the Heineken Cup is a very good example, as they lost two finals and more semi-finals before finally going all the way in 2006. With the first one won, another followed in 2008 and it was a similar tale for Leinster, winning in 2009 and then again in 2011 and 2012.
Ben Hogan was 34 when he won his first major, the PGA Championship in 1946; a near-fatal car crash was a factor in prolonging his wait, but he won seven more majors over the next seven years.
In GAA, Clare went from 1914-1994 without a hurling All-Ireland but then won two in three years in 1995 and ’97; football-wise, Tyrone had to wait until 2003 for their first ever, but two more followed in 2005 and ’08.
Obviously, you have to win your first before you can win your second or third, but getting to the first one is the hardest and most tortuous to achieve. No doubt that’s something that Christian Brothers College will be reflecting on after Saturday’s Dr Harty Cup semi-final defeat to Ardscoil Rís in Mallow.
CBC reached the first-ever Harty final, losing by 5-5 to 3-1 against Rockwell College in 1918. In the intervening years, rugby’s primacy in the school meant that Gaelic games took a back seat, but good work yielded results.
In 2015, Christians reached the Munster U18½BHC final, losing to St Joseph’s of Tulla. Prior to that game, Donal O’Mahony, one of the key men behind the transformation, outlined the path which had been taken.
“It has been a gradual progression,” he said.
“We took part in the Lord Mayor’s Cup, which is a small competition in Cork, and then from there we branched out into the O’Callaghan Cup, which is open to all colleges in the county.
“We started U14 and then U16 and we’re in all the grades now. Last year was our first playing Munster, we played U15B, and this was the first time taking part at senior level provincially.”
For the 2015-16 season, CBC decided to step up to the Harty Cup, marking their return with a victory over CBS HS Clonmel and reaching the quarter-finals, a stage they also reached in the 2016-17 competition.
Having again got out of their group in the current campaign, they found themselves paired with St Colman’s College – Harty royalty and last year’s beaten finalists – in the last eight, just as they had been the previous year. This time, they emerged as four-point winners and progressed to meet Ardscoil Rís in the semis.
When Robert Downey netted with ten minutes left on Saturday, they were 2-7 to 0-11 in front and though Ardscoil’s scorer-in-chief Paul O’Brien had two points to level, Owen McCarthy got this third from play to put CBC back in front again.
Unfortunately for them, it proved to be their final score but it needed deep resolve from the Limerick side to secure victory by three points – the largest margin to separate the teams at any stage in the game.
Afterwards, Donal O’Mahony said that going toe-to-toe with such a strong team – which still had three survivors from the 2016 win – would help them to improve and one would imagine that it will.
A word too for the large and loud CBC support. They had their oversize inflatable banana stolen by an Ardscoil-supporting giant dog, but it was recovered; then, at the end the team were given an excellent reception as they left the pitch.
On top of that, some supporters filled a bin bag with any litter which had been left over on the terrace. As Rudyard Kipling wrote, it’s important to treat the two impostors, triumph and diaster, just the same.
They still have the rugby – in which they beat Ardscoil a few weeks ago – and they will have the hurling again before too long. It’s all about incremental progress.
And, at least Donal O’Mahony had some success on Saturday, in his ‘other’ role as a Cork senior hurling selector.