Tipperary giants collide in mouthwatering Harty Cup clash

It’s been nine years since Thurles CBS and Our Lady’s Templemore met at the quarter-final stage of the Harty Cup. This afternoon’s clash would do well to reach the heights of the drawn and replayed fixtures from 2008.

Tipperary giants collide in mouthwatering Harty Cup clash

And you know what, there’s every chance it will.

Rewinding back to January 2008, Thurles CBS looked set to claim local bragging rights having opened up a seven-point interval lead courtesy of goals from John O’Neill and David Butler. Templemore rallied, however, to force a second instalment.

Most of that rallying, mind you, was done by one Noel McGrath, the Loughmore-Castleiney hurler hitting 10 points from centre-back.

Also wearing number six that afternoon was James Barry, and it was his Thurles CBS side who advanced at the second time of asking.

All four Harty Cup quarter-finals are down for decision this afternoon and while each carries a certain level of attractiveness — there’s the all-Cork clash of CBC and St Colman’s at Blackrock, there’s Ardscoil Rís bidding for a 10th consecutive semi-final appearance at Bansha and then you have Nenagh CBS and De La Salle Waterford meeting at this juncture for a second successive winter — the collision of the two Tipperary schools stands out a mile, or, indeed, the 15 kilometres of road which separates them.

And that has as much do with the present as it does past meetings.

Thurles CBS were Harty Cup champions in 2015. Their opponents reached the decider last spring, falling to Niall Moran’s Ardscoil Rís. Admittedly, it was a young Templemore side. Eight members of that starting team are still about, including 2016 All-Ireland minor winning captain Brian McGrath. Paddy Cadell played in front of the youngest McGrath on that Tipperary team.

Their relationship at colleges level is no different.

Lyndon Fairbrother was, arguably, the county’s most prolific forward at minor level in 2016 and the year previous. He’s another Thurles CBS will have to contend with.

Just as impressive as their line-up has been the manner in which they’ve cleared each obstacle they’ve faced. In the first round, Tom Byrnes’ students overcame St Flannan’s by 1-23 to 1-12. In the round of 16, they put 6-27 past Bandon’s Hamilton High School. They conceded 0-3 on that occasion.

Thurles’ representation on that all-conquering Tipperary minor team was nowhere near as plentiful as their opponents. Their winning margins, though, are equally impressive. The 2015 champions have conceded only one goal in three outings, put 3-17 past De La Salle Waterford and took Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG for 5-25. Centre-forward Darragh Woods clipped 3-28 before Christmas and his duel with Brian McGrath is likely to be the intriguing subplot of this tie. Our Lady’s Templemore are widely tipped for this year’s Harty crown. Tradition, though, favours Thurles.

We’ll settle for something along the lines of 2008.

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