North Mon old boy Tony Wall hoping to get one over Flannan’s again with Christians

“In terms of tradition,” says Tony Wall, “it is David versus Goliath”.

Joint coaches Tony Wall and Traolach Martin pictured at a press evening in Christian Brothers College in advance of the Harty Cup final. Photo: George Hatchell
Joint coaches Tony Wall and Traolach Martin pictured at a press evening in Christian Brothers College in advance of the Harty Cup final. Photo: George Hatchell

It’s a sentiment, expressed by the Christian Brothers College manager, which is impossible to argue with.

For all their progress in recent years, and without doubt, CBC have taken giant steps forward since returning to Munster senior colleges action in 2014, the rugby stronghold at the top of Sidney Hill is still searching for that breakthrough Harty Cup final win.

In the opposite corner are St Flannan’s. Back in the decider after 13 years away, the famed Ennis nursery is bidding to consolidate its place at the top of the roll of honour by capturing title number 22.

Saturday (12pm in Mallow) isn’t the first time Wall faces into a Harty Cup final against the boys from Ennis.

The Glen Rovers clubman was part of the North Mon side which scored a 5-6 to 1-7 victory over Flannan’s in the 1985 decider at Charleville and had graduated to the Mon's management set-up when that result was reversed in 1991.

Wall joined the teaching staff at Christians shortly after, but it wasn’t until 2014 - by which point he had put down 10 years coaching rugby at U15 McCarthy Cup level - that he became properly immersed in hurling in the school.

“Then principal Dr Larry Jordan approached me one day in the corridor about it. It just fascinated me, the idea of making a real go at hurling in the school,” Wall recalls. “At the time, we had guys like Robbie O'Flynn, Billy Hennessy, Michael O'Halloran, Robert Downey, and Tommy O'Connell in first, second, and third year. You knew there was a lot of talent coming through. It made perfect sense to give it a go. The timing was right."

Christians went all the way to the B final during their first year back at Munster senior level. That campaign prompted the decision to step up to Harty for the 2015/16 season. And from there, they haven't looked back.

From beaten quarter-finalists in 2016 and 2017, to reaching the last four in 2018, Saturday marks their second consecutive final appearance.

Among those who have driven this hurling renaissance, vice-principal Donal O’Mahony included, the goal has never been to challenge for sporting supremacy at a school which has won rugby's Munster Senior Cup on 30 occasions. Rather, there was a collective desire to further cater for the pupils who simply have no interest in throwing around the oval ball. On that front, they’re doing a damn fine job.

“We have to recognise Christians will always be a traditional rugby school,” Wall continues.

“The purpose of taking the step forward in hurling was that we had a lot of lads who didn't play rugby and we were looking to provide alternatives for them. You do take enormous pride in what has been done. It is a Cinderella story. We haven't quite got the ending yet.

“Most hurling people have embraced the progress we have made and the reasons we are doing it. I think people are very happy to see us bringing Cork colleges hurling forward and helping to produce hurlers for Cork, which is the ultimate goal.”

Joint-coach, alongside Wall, is Wexford native Traolach Martin. As to how CBC has become such a force on the hurling stage in such a short space of time, Martin offers this rationale. “Everything that is done in the school, be it academics, hurling, or rugby, is done well. So if you are going to do something, you try to do it to the highest standard possible. If you put your hand to something in this school, there are no shortcuts and you do it as best as can be done. You can see the results of that with this team.”

Wall, similarly, was not expecting to be back in the decider so soon.

“We had lost 11 of last year’s starting team. We knew the lads were good, but we felt we might be a bit young. To be honest, if you had told me at the start of the year that we'd be back in a Harty final, I'd probably have laughed at you," the manager admits. But here they are, an hour away from the title. Now for their Cinderella ending.

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