On Sunday, former Tipperary corner-back Éamonn Buckley will lead Thurles CBS into the TUS Dr Harty Cup final as manager, with the school bidding for a third title in 15 years and ninth overall (which would put them fourth on the roll of honour alongside St Colman’s, Fermoy).
None of this Harty team has experienced the build-up to a final in their time in school but the links are there, with ’05 finalist Pádraic Maher double-jobbing on the sideline: Tipperary selector for their League opener on Saturday, Thurles CBS selector on Sunday.
“Pádraic said he'd come on board and then when I saw that he was getting involved with the Tipp seniors, I was dreading it. I was looking at the phone saying please don't see his name popping up,” says Buckley with a smile.
“But in fairness to Pádraic, the first thing he said to me was: ‘If I'm getting involved here, I'm getting my hands dirty. I'm all in.’
“He was going to club matches over the summer, watching these lads playing under 17, under 19. He wanted to know their names for when he came in in September.
“He's just brilliant to have involved and his experience now leading up to a big game like this will be brilliant for the lads to learn off and hopefully it will benefit the whole group.”
Their form this year has been electric, scoring 13-98 in five games, an average of over 27 points per game. Their average winning margin has been 13 points.
Their 3-20 to 2-7 semi-final victory over Midleton CBS surprised Buckley as much as anyone else.
“Nobody could have predicted the result of that match.
“The thing that we forget sometimes is a lot of these lads are 16, 17 years of age. Any chap that age can have their good days and their bad days.
“In that last 40 minutes, everything we hit went over the bar and everything they hit didn't.
“We couldn't believe, in our wildest dreams, going down to Mallow and getting a result like that.” Just three starters remain from their heavy semi-final loss to Ardscoil last year. It’s a young team by Harty standards, with five 18-year-olds and the rest of the team aged 16 or 17.
Buckley, who started off with this team in first year and followed them up the grades, has fielded 29 different players during their Harty Cup run. As impressive is how they’ve shared out the scoring burden.
In the semi-final, Jimmy Lahart struck 2-2, Robbie Ryan hit 1-5, and there were four points each for Joe Maher and Robbie Stapleton.
“The good thing about our forwards is it's been different lads every day that step up to the mark. We're getting a good spread of scores and the lads are good to give the ball. If the score is on, they'll take the score but if the pass is on, they'll give the pass so that's good to see.
“Obviously, Cashel have a serious set of backs and any team that beats the All-Ireland champions, they have to be a serious outfit. We know we'll need another couple of percent again but hopefully, we can get that and get over the line on Sunday.”
Their captain Tommy Maher tallied 1-4 from midfield including their injury-time winning goal in the quarter-final against St Colman’s and he can’t wait to get inside the gates of Semple Stadium on Sunday.
“It's very good to have the final in Semple Stadium. The biggest game on the biggest day should be on in the biggest stadium so it's great to have it there and it's just another game now to go and win,” said Maher.
“All the young lads are mad about the hurling in school and the teachers. Hurling is all over the school. They're in great form at the moment and we're just happy to bring a bit of joy to the school.”