A HEAVY defeat for Midleton CBS.
An agonising one, because they never really got out of the blocks.
Yes, they were outplayed by a brilliant Ardscoil Rís outfit, but the east Cork side didn’t do themselves justice.
You could argue they were not allowed however, there is no doubt they have the credentials and the talent to do better.
You need only look at their impressive path to this Dr Harty Cup final to know they arrived on merit, none more than their last four ousting of reigning champions Our Lady’s Secondary School, Templemore when they posted an incredible score of 2-27.
But nerves aren’t easy to deal with, and not delivering on the big stage will be disappointing. It is all part of the process and they will learn from it.
The Limerick school has now won this prestigious competition on five occasions – all since 2010. Contesting 10 semi-finals in the last 11 years also provided them with invaluable experience.
With a handful of Limerick county minors plus two from Clare, they were always going to be hard to beat.
Midleton CBS needed to hit the ground running. But, it was Ardscoil Rís who came out firing with a goal from Rian Considine after five minutes. His finish was superb; as was the cross-ball from Diarmuid Ryan who was under severe pressure, however he still managed to get his one-handed flick away.
The Cratloe pair of Considine and outstanding midfielder Ryan played in the Munster minor football and hurling finals with Clare last year, and Ryan is a member of the Banner senior hurling panel this year.
The green flag set the tone with a second major following 15 minutes later from star corner-forward Cathal O’Neill.
The sliotar was travelling fast and furiously into their highly-dangerous forward line who were regularly first to the ball and this was despite the Rebel side crowding the midfield area.
In fact, Ardscoil Rís could have posted a couple of more goals in that opening half. Midleton CBS, meanwhile, had just one chance but Arthur Nganou was given little space which forced his shot wide.
That the Cork representatives never got into their stride is full credit to Ardscoil Rís.
However, I do believe delaying throw-in by 10 minutes didn’t help them.
Warm-up routines are tailored with start times in mind. I think it is unfair to ask players who are psyched up and raring to go, to have to wait around for the crowd to arrive.
Now, I know Ardscoil Rís had to manage the hold-up too, but they are more seasoned.
Even a small disruption can be upsetting, especially when you are nervous.
If people are late, that should be their loss. It was well-flagged all week that big numbers were expected at this very fine north Cork venue (2,989 was the official count).
Still, this is not an excuse Midleton CBS will be using. They trailed by seven points at the break. That gap was not insurmountable.
Nevertheless, they continued to struggle and couldn’t make any inroads into the lead despite the best efforts of Liam Gosnell.
The Carrigtwohill teenager who co-captains the team along with Midleton’s Sean O’Leary Hayes, did get a goal back at the three-quarter mark but at this stage, they trailed 3-11 to 1-7.
A Gosnell free was then tipped to the net it appeared by Joe Stack, but the Limerick side always had the ability to go up another gear – even if they did finish with 14 men. They were strong in every line of the field, including goalkeeper Jason Gillane, and with his out-field players picking off some exceptional scores, they more than justified the favourites tag.
While this particular journey has ended for Midleton CBS, the current O’Callaghan Cup holders have a chance to get back on the horse. They move on to the All-Ireland quarter-final of the Croke Cup against the Leinster runners-up on March 3 (losers of Dublin North and St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny which will be decided next Saturday).
Even though they will be understandably low-spirited after the weekend’s result, it is a glorious opportunity to get back out there.
There is a lot of underage success in this panel between school, club and county so self-belief shouldn’t be an issue.
And you’d never know, they might meet their conquerors again along the way.
Elsewhere, another Cork team was in hurling action on Saturday and while there was no silverware collected at Mallow, Mitchelstown CBS produced a stellar performance to be crowned Munster senior B hurling champions for the first time following a dramatic one-point victory over Cashel Community School in Clonmel. This is a huge achievement.
Finally, special mention to Munster Post-Primary Schools for the excellent 40-page Harty match programme. This is a lovely souvenir and an enjoyable read that included a great deal of relevant information.