It promises to be a historic afternoon when the all-Clare derby rolls around as the bluebloods from Ennis take on the newcomers from Tulla.
It has already been a record setting campaign for the East Clare outfit who somewhat remarkably find themselves in the knockout stages despite having yet to win a game in this year’s competition. Their passage to the last eight came thanks to a dramatic last minute draw in their final group game which saw them finish ahead of Bandon by virtue of a single point on scoring difference.
St Flannan’s have yet to put a foot wrong this term with a perfect record of three wins from their three group games. They were put to the pin of their collars in their final outing against North Mon before coming through by the minimum to seal their spot as group winners. The earlier rounds saw them register victories over Waterford opposition in the form of De La Salle and Blackwater.
It is a major achievement for two Clare outfits to reach this stage of the province’s most prestigious colleges hurling competition, but looking through both panels it is no great surprise. Both panels are laden with recent county minor stars with 11 of the Clare side that started in the 2019 Munster final against Limerick set to be in action between the two outfits. Aaron Shanahan, Adam Hogan, Cormac Murphy and Oisin Clune will fly the Tulla flag when they face county team-mates Cian Galvin, Tony Butler, Killian O’Connor, Oisín O’Donnell, Conner Hegarty, Jarlath Collins and Diarmaid Cahill. Add in the likes of Daragh Keogh who helped Tulla to this year’s U16.5 Munster title along with St Flannan’s full-back and 2018 Clare minor captain Darragh Healy, and it should all add up to an outstanding game of hurling.
Tulla have annexed the last two U16.5 Munster titles so the step up to the top level comes as no real surprise. Keogh has been their top scorer to date with 0-17 across their two games, including 0-11 last time out. The East Clare side will know that the scoring spread will need to be much greater if they are to take down their neighbours who will be structured and disciplined in defence. If that discipline goes awry though, Keogh will punish. Adam Hogan provides a steady influence on the edge of the square while Paddy Donnellan and Evan Maxted will be key in the middle third. Oisín Clune and Keogh will likely form the midfield partnership where they will get plenty support from the hardworking Andrew Conheady and Cormac Murphy with the Withycombe duo of Sean and Daniel being a constant threat in the inside line.
The battle of the middle third is going to be a crucial one and Cian Galvin’s influence will be one to watch. The Magpie was selected on the Electric Ireland Minor team of the year for his performances in the saffron and blue in 2019 and that form has continued during the Harty Cup campaign. Tulla will need to have a plan in place to bypass Galvin if they are to exploit the pace of their forward line, but with Healy and Galvin manning the key spots, it will be no easy task. Conner Hegarty has been outstanding for St Flannan’s so far and if he is given any room to operate in, he will do damage. The Ennis side have a forward line stacked with talent with the outstanding Diarmaid Cahill leading the line while getting plenty back-up from the likes of Oisín O’Donnell, Peter Power and Killian O’Connor. St Joseph’s will need to work hard in order to shut the supply lines down but it may still not be enough.
On paper, it promises to be an enthralling clash and whatever the result, it will be a memorable occasion. The fact that two Clare schools have reached this stage is offset somewhat by the fact that the journey for one of them will end at the final whistle. The other side of that coin is that a Clare school is guaranteed be in the last four, and while nothing will come easy, St Flannan’s should just have enough firepower to see them over the line in a gripping battle.
Verdict: St Flannan’s.
Facts and figures
This week’s Harty Cup quarter-final might be a unique occasion in pitting St Flannan’s against St Joseph’s but it is not the first time that two Clare schools have shared the limelight on this stage.
St Flannan’s are the competitions leading lights on the roll of honour having accumulated 21 titles, while they suffered defeat on 18 occasions. It is a remarkable record with only Cork’s North Mon coming close to matching it. They have been crowned champions 19 times, while losing out 10 times in the decider.
The Ennis outfit have been involved in two all-Clare derbies in the final of the historic competition, with one win and one loss in those clashes. The first came in 1962 when they met fellow Ennis side Rice College, with Rice College coming out on top by 4-2 to 2-7. That victory for Rice College remains the only time that a Clare school other than St Flannan’s were crowned champions. It was Ennis v Shannon in 1989, when St Flannan’s beat Shannon Comprehensive 0-9 to 0-5.
St Caimin’s were Clare’s most recent finalists in 2009 as they lost out to Thurles CSB by 3-15 to 0-10. St Flannan’s, St Caimin’s, Rice College and Shannon Comprehensive are the only four Clare schools to reach the final of the competition.
Clare are second on the overall roll of honour in the competition with 22 titles and 21 runners-up. Cork lead the way with their 41 titles being shared between six schools, but the lion’s share of those lie with North Mon who have been champions on 19 occasions. Tipperary and Limerick are tied with 16 titles each while Waterford schools have been crowned champions five times.
2005 was the last time the Harty Cup came to Clare, when Bernard Gaffney’s goal proved crucial for the Gerry Arthur captained St Flannan’s as they beat Thurles CBS 1-11 to 1-6. It was a second title in a row for the Ennis side, but defeats would follow for the next two years with back to back losses against De La Salle proving to be their last appearances on the big day.
The 1990’s and 2000’s were a golden age in the competition for St Flannan’s with four titles in the 90’s (1990, 1991, 1998 and 1999) along with three in the 2000’s (2000, 2004 and 2005). They first appeared in the final in 1927 where they lost out to Limerick CBS by 11-7 to 1-0. Their first title arrived in 1944 with a 4-5 to 2-2 win over Midleton CBS, with what was the first of four Harty Cups in a row.