Hamilton High School seeking All-Ireland hurling glory

Bandon side contest the All-Ireland PPS senior B final against Coláiste Naomh Cormac of Offaly
Hamilton High School seeking All-Ireland hurling glory

Hamilton High School joint captains Conor O'Sullivan (second from right) and Evan O'Shea (right) with their Coláiste Naomh Cormac counterparts James Mahon and Evan O'Shea at Croke Park ahead of the Masita GAA All-Ireland Paddy Buggy Cup final. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Perhaps it’s the fact that it has always had a limited population in terms of students, but Bandon’s Hamilton High School tends to enjoy a strong loyalty from its past pupils.

In the past decade, Mallow’s complex has been thronged by ‘Hammies’ fans as the school reached semi-finals in the Dr Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí and it’s likely to be a similar story in Kilmallock today as they take on Coláiste Naomh Cormac of Kilcormac, Co. Offaly in the final of the Paddy Buggy Cup (All-Ireland PPS Senior B HC) at 2pm.

Exemplifying the strength of the bond that alumni possess is the fact that the Hamilton team is guided by three teachers who all attended the school – Kilbrittain pair Aidan O’Donoghue and Philip Wall as well as Tiernan O’Driscoll of St Mary’s.

Having won the Munster title in February, the Hammies saw off Holy Rosary College of Mountbellew, Co. Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. While the prospect of playing a national decider might be daunting, O’Donoghue feels that the experience gained by many of the players on the football field in the school colours should stand to them.

In 2022, Hammies only lost the Corn Uí Mhuirí semi-final to Killarney’s St Brendan’s College after extra time while this time round the Killarney school beat them in the quarter-finals. While it’s not easy to combine commitments in both codes, Aidan O’Donoghue believes that there are benefits to be drawn.

“It’s a bit of both,” he says.

“It’s tough in a way, because two-thirds of the hurlers are on the senior football team, so there’s a huge crossover.

You’ve club and county stuff thrown in too, so it’s about just managing the situation as best we can with co-operation from both sides.

“Then, on the other side, there’s a trade-off in that you’ve a positive fitness aspect but the biggest thing is that, when the footballers have gone so well over the last couple of years, it’s had our lads out on big occasions.

“Playing St Brendan’s in the Corn Uí Mhuirí semi-final in Mallow last year was a big game and all of that is a great experience for them. I don’t think we’ve been fazed by any big occasion this year, they’re solid that way.

“It has given them great experience.” 

 Micheál Maguire, one of the many dual stars on the Hamilton High team, in action against Coláiste Chríost Rí in the Corn Uí Mhuirí last November. Picture: Larry Cummins
Micheál Maguire, one of the many dual stars on the Hamilton High team, in action against Coláiste Chríost Rí in the Corn Uí Mhuirí last November. Picture: Larry Cummins

In 2012, the Hammies played in the Harty Cup for the first time in nearly two decades and reached the semi-finals in the 2013-14 academic year. Back at B level in 2019, they lost the Munster final to St Francis College of Rochestown. Matching and bettering that showing was the aim for 2022-23.

“At the start of the year, we set our target at winning Munster out,” O’Donoghue says.

“Where we are now is great, but there was never talk of an All-Ireland. We just took it game by game, really.

“In the first game, we had Rice College, who were an excellent side. We just about got over them and that started the momentum. Then we had Doon and we beat them comfortably enough in the end – we were in trouble at half-time that day but we had a good second half.

“The belief began to grow and we’ve been improving and improving as the year has gone on.” 


Eight different clubs – Bandon, Courcey Rovers, Diarmuid Ó Mathúnas, Kilbrittain, Newcestown, St Mary’s, St Oliver Plunkett’s and Valley Rovers – are represented and there is a knock-on effect for them. It’s something O’Donoghue saw with the Harty semi-final team, which included three future Cork hurlers in Mike Cahalane, Luke Meade and Chris O’Leary (now with Dublin) and a Rebel footballer in Micheál McSweeney.

“I always think back to the Harty Cup,” he says.

“There were certain players that time that, when they went back to their clubs, they were different players completely and it was down to the standard that they were playing at that time.

This is a level below that, it’s B, but at the same time you’re going back to your club with a Munster medal in your pocket and they’re better for it.” 

Equally, the good showings mean that the school becomes an attractive option for talented GAA players, who then add to the history.

“We have been doing well for a good period of time with a lot of different teams,” says O’Donoghue.

“We’re definitely attracting the more talented players from the area and we’re obviously hoping that that would continue and grow further and we’d become a nursery for the region.”

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