FOR 12 years now the Dr Harty Cup has proved to be a bridge too far for Cork school teams.
One has to go back to 2006 since Midleton CBS defeated competition specialists, St Flannan’s in the final of that year.
St Colman’s, Rochestown and Charleville CBS have all contested finals in the interim years but without success.
Now the torch has been passed to Midleton CBS again and team mentor Timmy Collins is under no illusions at the magnitude of the task confronting his young team.
“I suppose from my time being here in the school we have had a lot of very good players, a lot of talented ones and it’s probably all about getting a team to click and we have been fortunate, myself and Alwyn Kearney, since we took over two years ago that we have a group of players that are very close, to begin with.
“They are all friends in and around the school and we have been lucky in that sense that the team was there.
“We are just facilitating them and bringing them together to the level that was needed to get this far.’’
Collins believes that having the blend and getting the balance right has been a key ingredient in getting the school back into the final again.
“Absolutely, I suppose it helps that we are teaching these guys day in, day out and that we are interacting with them.
“They are together as a group in the classrooms and out on the field and that certainly has had a big bearing on where it has brought us today.
“You could say that myself and Alwyne have been coaching this group of players since they came in here in first year.
“We kind of implemented our philosophy on them on how we wanted the team to play and fortunately they have stuck together as a group all the way up.
“They know what we are about and we know what they are about and that has been vital in what we have achieved up to this point.’’
After so many barren years, the Midleton CBS mentor is fully aware of the requirements needed to win one of schools hurling’s most prestigious competitions.
“The level of preparation that is needed, that is necessary to get a team to the Harty Cup final is huge.
“We have done everything on a par with what a Cork minor team does and we are trying to bring it up and even beyond that level.
“You could look at Ard Scoil Rís and what they have been doing. They have set the bar in the last couple of years and as a team management we have tried to match that and even take it higher again.’’
It has been a mixed bag of a campaign thus far, just the one loss at the group stage to Saturday’s opponents.
“I suppose things have changed quite a bit since our first game against De La Salle back in October.
“It’s only in the past couple of weeks really that we have settled on a 15 that have got comfortable with their positions.
“One or two other guys are in contention as well but that’s the nature of the panel and the competitiveness that is there at the moment, we could make changes from the last game.’’
Collins is aware too on the demands of players at the time the Harty Cup campaign is played in.
“That’s the big thing for most of these lads. They come out of a club campaign, even an inter-county one accustomed to dry conditions on a solid field.
“It’s a different game during the summer. The conditions later in the year and into a new year are a huge factor and your physique comes into it in a big way.
“We have been working in the last two years more on strength and conditioning and certainly in our new building here the state of the art gym has helped us in that aspect of it. Maybe in the past, that aspect of it was something we struggled with.
“Certainly with the likes of Eoin O’Shea around the place, he does a lot of work for Rebel Óg, he does a lot with preparation in that regard.’’
Having played and lost (by a point) to Saturday’s opponent’s, there is a full awareness of what Ard Scoil will be bringing to the table.
“Absolutely, we had two huge games with Ard Scoil last year and there’s a lot of both teams still around. We played last November above in Boherlahan and there was only a puck of a ball between us and I believe it will be the same again in the final.”
Collins believes too that a Midleton CBS win would be another significant boost for underage hurling in the county.
“Certainly, we are well aware of that. If Cork benefits from what we do, that’s great but at the end of the day, we are only concerned with Harty Cups.
“It’s been 12 years since we were in a final and for a school with this tradition that’s too long.
“Now it’s all about trying to prepare in the right way for the lads and that they are in prime condition going into the match.
“It’s mid-term break and that certainly helps in the week before the match.
“We are getting great support from the clubs and the good wishes are coming in off the street.
“We are fortunate too that we have a lot of experienced campaigners in the team, a lot of them have played minor and U17 for Cork so, hopefully, that will stand to them on Saturday,’ said Collins.
It’s been 12 years since we were in a final and for a school with this tradition that’s too long