Time was when this was a minimum expectation of the blue and white jersey, but the Mon has had to rebuild its hurling credibility in recent years.
A crop of good kids has helped.
“When this bunch came in back in first year, we knew they were at the standard, that they were high calibre players,” says current manager Ed Cronin. “They won the Cork Colleges U14 title so the plan for this year’s Harty goes back that far, anyway. We made the Dean Ryan final and we played a lot of those players in the Harty as well, so it’s been a three-year process, really.
“There’s been a bit of pain along the way. We had some bad days, but we always had an eye on this year and it’s going well for us.”
They’ve had to readjust. Cronin points out that the last time the Mon won the Harty, they were drawing from the entire school, not just the Gaelcholáiste. He and his colleagues in management, Tadhg Lordan and Liam Shorten, don’t have the same hinterland to draw from either: “If you look at the team from 1994 you had lads from Blackrock, the Barr’s, Inniscarra, clubs like that, whereas we’re really picking from two clubs now, Glen Rovers and Na Piarsaigh.
“We’ll probably have 12/13 from Na Piarsaigh and a couple from the Glen today, so things have changed in terms of our pick, hugely. The big secondary schools in places like Glanmire and Blarney mean that we don’t get players from those areas any more, so it’s certainly a far smaller pool that we select from.
“You could say we’re punching above our weight but, to be fair to the lads involved, once they realised what was required and what they had to do to reach the level, they brought their own standards up.
“We have players who didn’t make the Dean Ryan a couple of years ago — who wouldn’t have been close to the Harty team even last year — but they’ve worked hard over the summer and come back into school in September much better and stronger.”
They’ve nourished themselves on workrate and dismissed disadvantages as irrelevant.
“Numbers aren’t everything,” says Cronin.
“Once you have a good bunch of lads who are willing to work hard and work with each other, you can make up the deficit.
“And that works for coaches as well, you don’t rely on talent alone but on hard work to help them to improve with an aim of getting them to Harty standard.
“The U14, U15 championships aren’t as important to us as getting them ready for Harty Cup competition once they get to fifth year, sixth year.
“You wouldn’t mind a bit more depth to the squad, maybe, but to be honest, I wouldn’t change anything about the squad.”
They’ve had some help. Na Piarsaigh and the Glen have rowed in and they’ve drawn on the traditions of the school. Nicky Barry was involved in 1994, and he’s come in to talk to the players. Donal O’Grady has done some work with them.
They’ll need that help today.
“Thurles are a very good team, and they have a pretty decent tradition themselves,” says Cronin. “They had nine former players involved in last year’s All-Ireland senior hurling final and replay, for instance, so the pedigree is good generally, and specifically they’re pulling from very strong hurling clubs in their locality.
“Our lads will be up against Tipp minors today, and they came out of the ‘group of death’ fairly comprehensively. In that sense it’ll be a bit of a surprise if we get a win out of the game but we’ll give it everything.
“We’re aware of the tradition and the history of the school, of course we are. But the lads are very keen on creating their own tradition, too.”
They already have.