It’s certainly a long shot, given the level of opposition they are facing, but there is a chance that Hamilton High School and Skibbereen Community School could bridge a 24-year gap in Mallow on Saturday.
There is a TUS Corn Uí Mhuirí semi-final double-header at the Carrigoon venue, with the Bandon school taking on the competition’s most successful outfit, St Brendan’s College of Killarney (22 titles), while Skibb face the side second in the roll of honour, Tralee CBS (16 wins).
Tralee beat Brendan’s in the final the last time the Corn was played, in 2019-20, while they formed an all-Kerry decider in 2016, 2008 and 2007 as well. In the interim, Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne burst on to the scene and won four in a row and then two in a row, beating Brendan’s twice and Tralee once. Add in Caherciveen’s Coláiste na Sceilge and Intermediate School Killorglin and there have been ten all-Kerry finals in the competition since the last time two Cork schools made it all the way to the last two.
That was in 1998, when Coláiste Chríost Rí made it back-to-back titles with victory over Coláiste an Spioraid Naoimh at Páirc Uí Rinn.
A 3-17 to 3-3 final scoreline points to an impressive level of dominance from the Turner’s Cross school but things might have panned out differently had their Bishopstown opponents taken advantage of a pair of early goal chances.
Cathal McCarthy – who would go on to captain the Cork minor hurlers to All-Ireland glory later that year – got Críost Rí off the mark and, with corner-back Rory McCarthy benefiting from the fact that Spioraid Naoimh made the ill-fated decision to go with three midfielders, they pushed on impressively.
A goal from budding soccer star Damien Delaney in the 25th minute, as he rounded off a superb move, underlined their dominance though James Murphy gave Spioraid Naoimh some hope with a goal before half-time that left it 1-10 to 1-2 at the break.
However, any optimism was quenched within two minutes of the restart as Cathal McCarthy was on hand to finish from close range after another Críost Rí attack cut through the defence. A missed penalty added to the Spioraid Naoimh woes and a second Delaney goal had made it 3-15 to 1-2 by the end of the third quarter.
Spioraid Naoimh’s efforts to the end were rewarded with late goals from Eoghan Lougheed and Brian O’Donovan but it was certainly Críost Rí’s day as they claimed a 13th title. Their 14th would come in 2004, with Spioraid Naoimh breaking their duck the following year and De La Salle Macroom claiming a maiden victory in 2006.
Since that three in a row for Cork, however, Críost Rí’s 2011 title stands alone, with Kerry claiming the other 14 and the odds are that the Kingdom will make it a tenth straight victory this year.
The Hammies and Skibbereen will have other ideas, of course.