Thurles feels hurling fever

Niall Cahill need only drive through the main gates of Thurles CBS to see the ripples of excitement created by their spring adventure.

Thurles feels hurling fever

Every morning the green area is packed with young students knocking a sliotar about. The hurls reappear between each class and there is almost a stampede out the main doors at small break and lunchtime to find a decent spot for a few pucks. Wherever possible, says Cahill, they are hurling, or knocking the ball off the nearest available wall, or chatting about today’s Croke Cup decider.

Even the first years, jokes the Thurles CBS manager, are well versed on the tradition and ‘superpower’ status of opponents St Kieran’s College. The Easter Holidays this week certainly helped in removing Cahill’s troops from the glare of the spotlight since the semi-final victory over St Peter’s, Wexford.

“The last time you would have seen this kind of hurling craze in the school was when James Barry lifted the Croke Cup in 2009,” says Cahill.

The current crop passed through the main gates for the first time the following September, inspired by the feats of Barry, Denis Maher and company. It is now they who are looked upon by the school’s younger brigade.

“Being in the final is having a great knock-on effect here in the school,” says Cahill.

“Young lads that would be hurling for the school at U14, U15 and U16 level are out hurling every day, are hurling every lunchtime. It is great to drive in in the morning and see so many young lads out pucking a ball.

“Any opportunity they get, the young lads have the hurl in the hand and are tapping a ball around. It just builds and adds to it.

“It is great to see the younger lads looking up to this team, the boys in sixth year are the role models.”

Cahill took charge of the school’s senior team for the defence of their Harty and Croke Cup titles in 2010. They were successful in neither, falling to Ardscoil Rís in the Munster final.

The September after he was entrusted with the incoming first years, a five-year cycle that would see the Urlingford native, along with Martin Maher and Paddy McCormack, develop a bunch of sprightly teenagers into All-Ireland contenders.

“The successful management team in 2009 went straight back to coaching the first years the following September. How it works out in the school is that you bring your team through from first year. Martin Maher, Paddy McCormack and I were involved with the Harty team in 2010. In 2011 then, we went back to the first years and have brought them through the whole way up along. You are with the one group for the five years.

“Up until this year, we would have had little or no success with this group. They would have got to a White Cup final (U15A), but were beaten by Ardscoil Rís.

“They were never getting over the line, but that never stopped them from working.”

Continued Cahill: “Any lad that comes in the doors here to Thurles knows he is going to be trained from September right through until the competition ends the following spring. If you are putting in that much work, on the law of averages, you have to improve over the six years. The hard work these lads have put in has paid off.

“Our captain Ronan Teehan was telling the younger students during the Harty Cup homecoming that they hadn’t won anything coming up along and there would have been lads on the team now that would have been subs the whole way up along. One lad in particular, Tom Hayes, was a sub all the way up to the Harty Cup semi-final and he has started every game since. Hard work is rewarded in Thurles.”

On the challenge of St Kieran’s, the manager added: “I was talking earlier about all our students being out in the morning hurling, you hear stories down there there could be anything up to 400 lads out pucking during lunchtime. Daniel O’Connor is in with the Kilkenny minors for a third year and has been a sub for St Kieran’s all year. It is a different level. You are never going to win an All-Ireland unless you beat St Kieran’s. We fully appreciate that.”

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