Eleven months ago, over 7,000 people descended upon Páirc Uí Rinn for the Dr Harty Cup decider between Midleton CBS and Christian Brothers College. The all-Cork flavour added to the novelty, and the meeting once again of the two schools at the Boreenmanna venue today (1pm) in the penultimate round is set to attract another bumper crowd.
Champions Midleton CBS have arrived at this stage as group leaders over St Joseph’s Tulla and Hamilton High School Bandon. They defeated De La Salle College Waterford in the quarter-final by nine-points — having barely edged them out in the last four last season.
“We played them in the semi-final last year so we took nothing for granted. But we performed well on the day and we were delighted to come away with a win,” said Midleton CBS manager Iain Cooney. “The group stage is a very dangerous area.
It is all about getting out of it. You are trying new players and forming a bond and dynamics, and players getting used to each other.
"Look at Árdscoil Rís, they didn’t get out, they had a tough group and they were Harty winners two years ago.
“We have a new team this season. We have a few lads from last year but we have a lot of young fellas as well. It is all about developing a team.”
That experience will be provided by Ritchie Landers, Ciarán Joyce, Ryan McCarthy, Sam Quirke, Cathal Hickey, and Jack McGann — all starters the last time the sides met in this competition. Cooney, whose team bridged a 13-year gap to claim that title, maintains these matches can take on a life of their own.
“We are looking forward to it, it is great to have two Cork teams again, this time in the semi-final. It is a good occasion. There is a bit of excitement picking up now in the school. It is all on the day. We will prepare as best we can. We are nearly full strength. Once the game starts, you hand it over to the players. We can only watch on. The better team on the day will win.”
CBC have impressed too en route to this semi-final, topping a group which included Our Lady’s Templemore, St Francis College Rochestown, and Árdscoil Rís. When the pressure was on, they edged their quarter-final against St Colman’s College by a point.
Deputy-principal of CBC Donal O’Mahony was pleased with the resolve shown and the manner in which they closed out that game.
“We were delighted to win the group and to come out on top. We have had great battles with St Colman’s over the years and in the quarter-final in tough conditions, we stood up to the physicality of the game. We were asked serious questions and we were able to compete.
“So we are happy with that. We have six U17s in our team, in an U19 competition. We have four from the team that started in the Harty final last year and we have three who stepped up from that panel. The turnover of players is the reality of school hurling. But there is great unity in this bunch.
“We were gutted we lost the final last year. But when the dust settled, it was a great day for Cork GAA. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted but we were happy for Midleton, being a Cork school. We support each other.
We would have taken a lot of confidence from last year. We didn’t want to be a flash in the pan, we want to be competing in a regular basis.
The four players who started in last February’s showdown are Carthach Daly, Gearóid Mulcahy, Niall Hartnett, and Jack Cahalane. Unfortunately, it appears they will be without their midfielder Denis McSweeney who is ruled out due to a hand injury. CBC are one of the last four teams standing in Munster, however the only certainty is that a Cork school will be in the final. O’Mahony said Midleton CBS will present a huge challenge. “They would have stronger depth and they are backboned by victorious minor teams. They are doing a fantastic job down there and it will be a massive challenge for us.”
Meanwhile St Flannan’s face Our Lady’s Templemore in the other semi-final this afternoon in Nenagh (1pm).