Midleton CBS held their Harty Cup final press afternoon on Wednesday week last, the low-key gathering in stark contrast to last year’s.
With today’s fixture representing their second successive final appearance, a similar event was organised in advance of the 2018 decider. Present at the Midleton school on that occasion were management, a handful of players, who were available to speak to the gathered media, and numerous past pupils, including Paudie O’Sullivan, who had starred in the college’s most recent Harty success back in 2006, while press clippings from that particular campaign hung proudly from the walls.
Not since the 2006 win had Midleton CBS contested a Harty Cup final and so the buzz at being back involved in the decider was self-evident that particular day.
On Wednesday week last, there were no players, no past pupils and no press clippings. As for any buzz that may have been lingering about the place, they were doing their level best to hide it... which is somewhat understandable. Even though last year’s final in no way went to plan, Midleton’s end-of-year accounts would have still shown that a 12-year gap had been bridged to the college’s most recent final appearance. In other words, progress had been made, even if the desired silverware had not been annexed.
Progress, on this occasion, does not amount to back-to-back final appearances. That’s consistency, even if there are only five members of last year’s starting team still involved. Progress is going a step further.
The overriding disappointment last year was not the 3-18 to 2-10 defeat, but rather the team’s failure to put their best foot forward on the afternoon. They didn’t do themselves justice. This year’s management team, comprising of Iain Cooney, Brian O’Callaghan and James Mulcahy, want to avoid such a scenario and so are focusing their players on churning out a performance.
“A lot of the panel members were involved last year. They know the feeling of losing a Harty Cup final, so that is a personal thing for them, a monkey, maybe, that they must get off their back. As a management team, we’re looking at it from a team perspective, trying to get a performance, give our best effort on the day and, at 3.15pm, we’ll see what the outcome will be,” insisted manager Iain Cooney.
Enquire about the opposition and Cooney will eventually bring the conversation back to his own crew and that need, that want, for a performance.
What the manager does suggest, mind you, is that because this is an all-Cork final, the first since 1994, there will be no element of surprise for the players. The Midleton corner-back, at some point or another in recent years, will have been part of a Cork development squad with the Christians corner-forward, while Kevin Finn and Sam Quirke, both of whom do their club hurling with Midleton, could well be picking each other up at midfield today.
“The lads know their opposition fairly inside and out. They are playing them at club level. Midleton played Blarney in a minor county final and three of that Blarney team are involved with CBC.
“Our lads from Kiltha Óg, Killeagh, Aghada, Lisgoold, they’ve been playing on development squads with lads from CBC all the way up along. They know who they are up against. It is, really: Can I beat my man on the day, can I perform better than my opposite number?”
Cooney added: “It is great to have local derbies in the colleges hurling, but does it add to [the occasion of the final]? The lads just need to concentrate on their own performance and trying to get the best out of themselves. They just need to work hard on the day and get their performance up to the required level.
“At the end of the day, we are not looking at a result. We are looking at a performance.”
Parking talk of performances and results, the work being done in the school at present would suggest Midleton CBS will continue to be a leading presence on the Harty stage in the years ahead.
“There are three first-year teams, 70 to 80 first years, out playing hurling at lunchtime,” said Cooney.
A bit of silverware, too, wouldn’t go unwelcome.