Having successfully negotiated the group stages of both the Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí before Christmas, the climb towards a Munster schools double steepens significantly this afternoon with Limerick’s Ardscoil Rís providing quarter-final opposition for the Roco hurlers.
Victory will guarantee Diarmuid Fahy’s young charges a place in the penultimate round in two weeks time and with the footballers facing Clonakilty CC in next week’s Corn Uí Mhuirí quarter-final, the Rochestown students — seven players feature on both starting teams — are hoping for yet another busy January.
A hectic schedule they are well accustomed to, given last year’s run to both finals, and a hectic schedule they welcome.
“It is very much the same as last year in that there is very good and constant communication between both management teams,” said hurling coach Diarmuid Fahy.
“It is all about minding the players. The lads are busy, we know they are busy.
“It is just about making sure that everyone knows what is happening on a given week and everyone is happy with what is happening.
“The players are satisfied with what is going on, they are happy with the set-up. That is most important.”
Fahy would have preferred a handier quarter-final draw, but there was a price to be paid for their round 3 defeat to Templemore in mid-November - Rochestown falling 2-14 to 2-8 and consequently conceding top spot in group B.
“Being honest about it, I don’t think we played to our potential that day. Saying that, Templemore were very good.
“It proved to us that you have to be at full throttle from the minute the ball is thrown in. It was a kick up the backside.
“That game was a litmus test in terms of our preparations.”
Charleville were conquered in their final group outing and they rounded off 2015 in fine fashion with a 3-24 to 0-8 win over Scoil Mhuire gan Smál, Blarney in the final of the O’Callaghan Cup (Cork PPS Senior A hurling) last month.
“To retain our O’Callaghan Cup title was a big plus and sets us up well going into the knockout stages of the Harty.” Mind you, their preparation for today’s fixture hasn’t been helped by the numerous storms which battered the county in recent weeks.
“We have been forced to train indoors as it has just been impossible to get a dry pitch.
“We played the Cork minors in a challenge last Saturday and we did a couple of drills after that game as that was our only field session building up to the quarter-final.
“I walked our own pitch in the school last Friday, hoping we might be able to do something on it and my feet sank into it, you couldn’t train on it.”
These two schools served up a five-goal thriller at the semi-final stage last year — the Cork outfit seeing through to the decider on a scoreline of 4-11 to 1-17.
“And with a number of players from both sides set to again feature, Rochestown can call on eight of last year’s team, including Shane Kingston, Ciaran Cormack, Nathan Walsh and John O’Sullivan, another decent hour’s hurling is on the cards.
“They are a great team to play against, a real quality, quality side. They have Peter Casey, Páraic O’Loughlin and Brian Ryan, they are all very good hurlers.
“Please God, the pitch holds up and the conditions allow for another good game.”
Dr Harty Cup quarter-final previewsHarty Cup quarter-finals (1.30pm throw-in for each game)
A repeat of last year’s semi-final, which Rochestown won 4-11 to 1-17. The Limerick school boasts nine survivors from that team, including Conor Boylan and All-Ireland U21 medal-winner Peter Casey.
Ardscoil Rís went unbeaten in the group stages, whereas today’s opponents required a second-half comeback effort in their final group game against Charleville to secure progression.
The Cork college will look to Sean Powter and Shane Kingston in attack, the latter having togged out for the Cork senior hurlers this past month.
St Francis College, Rochestown
Cork’s Christian Brothers College marked their return to the top tier with three impressive group stage wins before Christmas.
Full-forward Jamie Corkery represents their scorer-in-chief and should the Glen Rovers forward garner special attention from the Fermoy defence, responsibility will shift to the likes of Ben Keohane, Peter Blake and Robbie O’Flynn.
Stephen Condon, Cormac Donnellan. The O’Leary’s from Castlelyons, Niall and Keith, spearhead Colman’s challenge.
Castletroy, semi-finalists last year but with only three survivors from that team, will be hard-pressed to eliminate one of the favourites this afternoon; Templemore boast a 15-winning margin in the four games before the winter break.
Tipperary minor Lyndon Fairbrother is their go-to man up front.
Our Lady’s Templemore
Having clipped 1-4 when moved from centre-back to centre-forward in their sink-or-swim fixture against 2015 champions Thurles CBS last month, Nenagh’s Jake Morris is likely to line out in attack for this one.
Ruadhan Mulrooney, Dan O’Meara and Robbie Quirke are others who will require close attention from the Waterford students.