St Flannan’s go in search of a place in the Harty Cup final for the first time since 2007 when they go up against Our Lady’s Templemore this Saturday afternoon.
The Ennis side came through a tense local derby with St Joseph’s Tulla to reach this stage, while the 2017 champions left it late before a JD Devanney goal got them out of jail against local rivals Thurles CBS.
St Flannan’s have been impressive in their run to the last four as they came through their group campaign unbeaten to bridge a near decade of a gap since they last made the knockout stages. Coach and two time Clare All Star Brendan Bugler says no one was thinking about this point of the competition when the new season rolled around.
“At the start of the year we did not really look ahead to this stage and decided to just focus on each individual game that was put in front of us. We were lucky enough to come out of our first game with a win over Blackwater. That was on in September at a time when the lads had an awful lot to juggle between the two codes and their club action so they did really well to come through that period and get the wins over the three teams in the group stages. We were certainly not looking beyond that stage initially so thankfully we came through it and then had another really good test in the quarter-finals to get us where we are now. Any time our lads have been given a job to do, they have stuck to their tasks and done what we have asked of them so from a management point of view, we are delighted with them so far. We are in a good place and we feel confident with where we are at” said the Whitegate man.
Underage county stars like Conner Hegarty, Diarmaid Cahill, Cian Galvin, Oisín O’Donnell and Darragh Healy are just a selection of the talent and firepower available to the 21-time champions as they make their bid for the decider. Bugler says this year’s run has come about as a result of everyone who is invested in hurling at St Flannan’s putting their shoulder to the wheel.
“It is a collective effort from everyone that is involved in hurling in the school and the management of the school too. To my mind though, the most important people in the whole process are the players and when they buy into something, you can get these wins and get to these stages of a competition. It is all about them and the lads we have this year have all bought into what we have asked them to do and believed in what we are trying to do, and they are all doing their job. We have good players and while a lot of those lads would have represented Clare at minor level, there are a good number of our panel that haven’t yet but in the future I have no doubt that they will. There is no denying that we have a good crop of players there at the moment and they are doing what they are asked to do. They are really high achievers and when it comes to their sport they take it very seriously. It doesn’t matter what team they are playing with, be it their clubs or school, they take it seriously and that is all we ask from them” he noted.
St Flannan’s come into the game off the back of an impressive win over neighbours St Joseph’s Tulla in what was a highly anticipated derby clash. It took Diarmaid Cahill’s wonder goal in the second period to eventually break a spirited resolve from the East Clare side and Bugler admits it was a game that placed huge pressure on both sides for a number of reasons.
He said: “From a neutrals perspective it was a mouth-watering game but from a management point of view it was a tough one to prepare for. We were preparing to face another Clare school and it could another 20 years until a game like that will happen again where two Clare schools meet at the knockout stages of the Harty Cup. It was a big game for the players and we just did enough to get over the line. Tulla were a really good team on the day but I think there is more to come from our lads all the same. We played well in patches but if we are going to get over the line in this game we will have to be much more consistent over the full 60 minutes or more”.
The schedule over the last few weeks has been a busy one for St Flannan’s. Several of the side who will line out on Saturday afternoon in Nenagh also featured in their narrow loss to St Brendan’s in the Corn ui Mhuiri quarter-final last week, but Bugler is confident the players know how to ensure they are ready to battle once more.
“We have a lot of lads who are dual players and they are serious about their sport regardless of the code. We don’t look too far down the line and all we focus on is the next training session and move on from there to whatever comes next. The lads have been ticking along nicely and they know how to look after themselves. They get their recovery sessions and gym sessions in when needed and they are great lads to mind themselves. It has been a busy schedule but our lads are so used to that now that it really is almost second nature to them” he stated.
Our Lady’s Templemore are no stranger to Harty Cup success, with three final appearances since 2010. They made the most of their opportunity in 2017 when they stormed to victory over St Colman’s Fermoy, and this year they overcame a fancied Ardscoil Rís in their opening group game. All-Ireland club finalists with Borrisoleigh JD Devanney and Kevin Maher will be key figures for the Tipperary outfit but Bugler says they can’t allow themselves to get distracted from what they will bring to the table themselves.
“They are a good side and have a lot of big names. All we can do is just focus on ourselves and hope that collectively we can get the performance that will keep us in the game so that we might just sneak it in the end. The task ahead of us is huge and they are probably the favourites to win the Harty Cup outright at the moment. Our lads have prepared really well and we are going to do down there and give it one hell of a shot” he said.
The game will be streamed live on the Clare Champion Facebook page on Saturday afternoon from 12.50pm.