North Monastery are second on the list with 19 but neither they, nor third-placed Limerick CBS on 10, are competing in the competition while the last of St Colman’s College’s nine title came in 2003.
Flannan’s haven’t tasted victory since going back-to-back in the years directly after that, though, and last year they finished bottom of their group after losing all four games.
It was a young team, however, with 11 still eligible for this academic year and manager John O’Connor hopes that the experience gained will help them as they begin their campaign against Castletroy College in Sixmilebridge today (1pm).
“We knew last year that we’re going to be very strong,” he says, “so we made the conscious decision to give experience to younger lads who’d be available again.
“It was a very young team, the youngest that I can remember the school having. We had very few Leaving Certs involved last year and there were players from third year and TY (transition/fourth year) who played.
“On top of all that, we were in a very difficult group, we had Thurles, who went on to win it, and Ardscoil Rís, who made the semi-finals.
“We’d be more hopeful this time around, the experience should stand to them.”
Flannan’s first won the Harty in 1944 and the current wait for another is the longest apart from that between 1958 and ’76.
“The quality just hasn’t been there,” O’Connor says, “there have been a number of factors.
“The hurling base has shifted towards south Clare and it’s hard to get into the school with the way numbers are and then the move away from boarding was another big thing.
“Traditionally, we would have six or eight players on the Clare minor panel but last year we only had one, which says an awful lot.
“We’re looking to get out of the group but it won’t be easy.
“Castletroy will be a tough test but we’re hoping to get off to a good start.
“There has a been a lot of work put in, last year our first years won the Clare league.
“We’re a long way from the glory days but these things go in cycles and hopefully it’ll turn again.”