Thurles get nod to progress as they bid to end Harty hunger

THE defeat of champions DLS Waterford has thrown the Dr Harty Cup wide open and any of the four schools in today’s semi-finals will fancy their chances of winning the coveted prize.

Thurles CBS v Blackwater CC, Ardfinnan, 2.30pm

DEFEATED in the last two finals by DLS, Thurles CBS have every reason to feel that this could be their year. Without a title since 1956, they have come agonisingly close to bridging that 53-year gap.

This year they have done everything asked of them to reach the penultimate stage. The fact they have done so without the services of two of their best players, captain James Barry and Stephen Maher shows the depth of talent at their disposal.

Against Our Lady’s in the quarter-final, in extremely difficult conditions, Thurles produced an outstanding display of teak tough hurling, allied to superb skill. If they can reproduce that form, they will be difficult to stop.

While Stephen Maher has no chance of playing because of a hand injury, James Barry, if he doesn’t start, could make an appearance and last year’s Tipp minor would be a huge bonus for Thurles.

Blackwater College’s rise to prominence is due to the superb work of principal Denis Ring. He was behind St Colman’s dominance of the Harty Cup from 1992 to 2003 when they won the title five times. On his appointment, Ring made no secret of his ambitions for his new college and, having shocked holders DLS in the quarter-final, won’t have any fears of Thurles.

The Lismore school have built on their All-Ireland ‘C’ and ‘B’ victories of 2007 and 2008 and there is nothing like success to motivate a group of players to further honours.

Blackwater struggled for scores against DLS and it was only in the closing quarter they got the upper hand, scoring two goals to turn pending defeat into an exhilarating victory.

The strength of the Lismore side is in their half-back line of Shane Heaphy, Shane O’Rourke and Tom O’Byrne, assisted by the Prendergast cousins, John and Paudie.

Tradition is bound to play a part and Thurles have that in abundance. Their challenge is led by outstanding goalkeeper Paul Ryan, Denis Maher, Mossy Bracken, Kieran Morris, John O’Neill and David Butler, and they should shade the issue.

Verdict: Thurles CBS win

Ard Scoil Ris v St. Caimin’s, Meelick 2.30pmBEATEN in last year’s semi-final by Thurles, Ard Scoil Ris are desperately keen to go one better and get to their first final. Like the Tipperary school, Ard Scoil have answered all the questions asked of them. They were involved in two close games with St Flannan’s before edging the Ennis college by a point in a thrilling quarter-final replay.

Drawing players from both Clare and Limerick, Ard Scoil will start favourites but cannot afford to underestimate their opponents who have shown commendable spirit and skill to get this far.

Defeating Flannan’s was a notable achievement for the Limerick school. They led 0-6 to 0-2 after 20 minutes but were forced to survived a tremendous comeback by the Clare side before winning 0-10 to 0-9.

Kevin Downes, Conor Ryan, Declan Hannon, Alan Dempsey and Cathal McInerney were the chief architects of that win and will be the key players again tomorrow.

St Caimin’s caused a bit of a surprise in beating St Colman’s in their semi-final, beating the Fermoy college by four points to reach their first semi-final. The Clare college played with an intensity St Colman’s couldn’t match and could cause another shock tomorrow.

Patrick Sheahan was top scorer with nine of their 13 points, but Tim Crowe, Alan Mulready, Enda Boyce, John Guilfoyle and Sean Hynan will all have to play to the peak of their powers if they are to have a chance.

Verdict: Ard Scoil Ris.

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