Now that the knockout phase of the 2018/19 edition of the Harty Cup has arrived, a familiar question is again posed: Is this the year a Cork school ends the county’s longest-running Harty famine?
There are three schools from the county — St Colman’s Fermoy, Midleton CBS, and Christian Brothers College — involved in today’s quarter-finals, each attempting to bridge the 13-year gap to the last Rebel representative reigned supreme in Munster.
In recent years, the two establishments to the north and east — Fermoy and Midleton — would have been looked upon to lead the Cork charge, but the growth of hurling’s profile on Sidney Hill has seen Christians mark themselves out as one of the favourites for this year’s competition.
In the spring of 2015, the school, which sits joint-top of rugby’s Munster Schools’ Senior Cup roll of honour with 29 titles, came up short to St Joseph’s, Tulla after extra-time in the Munster Senior B hurling decider. The following September, Christians took the decision to step up to the top tier, with today’s quarter-final against Nenagh CBS (Kilmallock, 1.30pm) marking the fourth consecutive campaign where they have progressed to the last eight.
This year’s outfit, which put 6-19 past Castletroy College and hit Thurles CBS for 4-19 to top group D, contains nine from the starting team which lost narrowly to eventual champions Ardscoil Rís in last season’s semi-final, including 2018 Cork minors Cillian O’Donovan, Shane Barrett, and Pádraig Power.
St Colman’s Fermoy also topped their respective group, recording victories over Nenagh CBS, Ardscoil Rís, and Gaelcholáiste Mhuire an Mhainistir Thuaidh. Six points was as close as any team came to them in the group stages, with their average winning margin standing at nine points.
St Colman’s last won the Harty Cup back in 2003. Today’s aim is to book a second semi-final spot in three years, having fallen at this hurdle last year.
David Lardner and the Roche brothers from Bride Rovers, Eoin and Brian, both of whom were on the 2017 Cork minor team which reached the All-Ireland final, will spearhead their challenge against De La Salle College, Waterford (Fraher Field, 1.30pm).
Midleton CBS, who went unbeaten through the group phase, must negotiate Our Lady’s Templemore (Bansha, 1.30pm) if they’re to reach the penultimate round for a third consecutive year. Midleton CBS, of course, were the last Cork school to win the Harty Cup in 2006.
Ryan McCarthy and Ciaran Joyce were among their most impressive performers during the group C win over St Flannan’s and the stalemate with De La Salle Waterford.
Were St Colman’s and Midleton to come through their respective clashes, they would be pitted against one another in the semi-finals for the second time in three years, guaranteeing at least one Cork representative in the decider.
Christian Brothers College, Cork v Nenagh CBS, Kilmallock (J Murphy, Limerick), 1.30pm;
John the Baptist Community School v Thurles CBS, Dundrum (T Walsh, Waterford), 1.30pm;
St Colman’s, Fermoy v De La Salle College, Waterford, Fraher Field (F Horgan, Tipperary), 1.30pm;
CBS Midleton v Our Lady’s Secondary School, Templemore, Bansha (M Sexton, Limerick), 1.30pm.