Hammies can build on impressive Corn Uí Mhuirí victory

St Brendan's will be Bandon school's opposition in Munster semi-final on January 29
Hammies can build on impressive Corn Uí Mhuirí victory

Hamilton High School's Jacob O'Driscoll wins possession ahead of Cillian Litchfield of Mercy Mounthawk in the Corn Uí Mhuirí quarter-final at Bishopstown. Picture: Denis Minihane

HAMILTON High School joined a select club on Saturday as victory over Tralee’s Mercy Mounthawk secured them a place in the semi-finals of the TUS Corn Uí Mhuirí (Munster PPS U19AFC).

Back in 2014, a Hammies hurling side powered by future Cork senior stars Mike Cahalane and Luke Meade reached the Dr Harty Cup semi-finals for the first time, losing out to Ardscoil Rís. 

The achievement of reaching a first Corn Uí Mhuirí semi-final eight years on means that the Bandon school join only St Francis College, Rochestown and St Flannan’s College of Ennis in reaching top-tier semi-finals in both hurling and football in the last decade.

Saturday’s victory in Bishopstown was hard-earned. While the Hammies had had a dream start with goals from Conor Ustianowski and Jacob O’Driscoll in the opening five minutes, they struggled to build on it and Mounthawk came back to lead just after the first water break.

While Ciarán McCarthy then struck for a third goal to help Hamilton to a 3-2 to 1-5 half-time lead, the concession of four straight points early in the second half looked to indicate that the game was going the way of the Kerry school, who had the wind after half-time.

However, once again Hammies dug deep and points from captain Richard O’Sullivan, sub Tom Desmond and Olan Corcoran had them two ahead. Mounthawk did get a late point to halve that deficit, but stout defending ensured that an equaliser was not allowed.

For Hammies manager John O’Sullivan, it was a pleasing display.

“It was a good match,” he said, “it ebbed and flowed.

“We had the nice cushion of the goals in the first half and that helped us, but they came back very strongly, in fairness.

Hamilton High School's Richard O'Sullivan shoots past Mercy Mounthawk players Danny Jeffers and Joey Nagle. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Hamilton High School's Richard O'Sullivan shoots past Mercy Mounthawk players Danny Jeffers and Joey Nagle. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“We had to gather ourselves at half-time and up the ante a bit. We thankfully got a few nice points in the second half to hold them off.”

COMPOSURE

The fact that there was no panic from the Hamilton players even when they did fall behind was especially satisfying, O’Sullivan felt. The experience of coming through games against Coláiste Choilm of Ballincollig (in both the Corn Uí Mhuirí and Simcox Cup) and St Flannan’s stood the players.

“We knew they were a good side and that they were going to come at us at some stage,” the manager said.

It happened us in the last game in the Simcox, Ballincollig came at us but we gathered ourselves and it was the same on Saturday.

“In the second water break, honestly the lads just took over and said what we had to do. We let them talk and say what they needed to say and they just went out and did it.

“They just gathered themselves. We knew that we were defending well for the most part – we were disappointed with those four points in a row but we knew that if we could just compose ourselves, we had the ammunition up front to get over the line.”

The ‘prize’ for that is a bigger challenge again. With Clonakilty CC having been eliminated by Tralee CBS, Hammies and Skibbereen CS are the two Cork schools remaining. Skibb face Tralee in one semi-final on January 29, while it’s a clash with St Brendan’s College for Hamilton.

The famed Killarney nursery sit on top of the Corn Uí Mhuirí roll of honour with 22 titles, the last of those coming in 2017, while they were the beaten finalists in the last two editions of the competition, 2019 and 2020 (there was no second-level schools’ GAA in 2020-21).

Facing ‘the Sem’ will be as tough as it gets, but it’s a contest that the Hammies and O’Sullivan are welcoming.

“We’ve a hurling quarter-final [Corn Thomáis Mhic Choilm, U19BHC] next week as well, so it’s great,” he said.

“We were unlucky two years ago. We were well beaten by Tralee last time but it could have gone our way. It’s been coming and it’s great to make it finally.

“We’ve a big test but it’s where you want to be. The sky’s the limit when you get to the semi-final, anything can happen.”


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