When St Flannan’s were in their Harty Cup pomp early in the millennium, one man who was central to a lot of their great days out was Newmarket’s Colin Ryan.
The 2013 All-Ireland winner enjoyed huge success during his time at the Ennis school with two Harty Cup titles along with a Croke Cup to round off a golden era.
He says that time in St Flannan’s was a special period.
“It was where the real love of hurling started, and it was great going to school every day with a hurley in my hand and training four days a week with lads you would never have played with. It was the first taste of bringing clubs together and I suppose there was an element too of lads being mad to get out of school for a small bit too and bond. When we look back on the amount of games we played and the amount of time we missed, I am not sure if it suited everyone but we all survived and we all got something out of it that we would not get anywhere else. When we had that success with a good side, there were great friendships formed from it and it really was the pinnacle of schools hurling in winning a Harty. We were lucky enough to push on and win a Croke Cup along with it so it really meant a lot” he recalled.
St Flannan’s have been absent from the top table for 13 years with their last final appearance coming in 2007. Ryan feels the recent underage development has been a key factor in getting them back on the big stage.
He said: “If you did not get to one in our time, it was seen as a failure. I spoke about this with Brendan Bugler there recently that it has been too long since St Flannan’s were in it. I was very lucky to play in two Harty Cup finals in the two years I had playing at that level, so I thankfully didn’t know any different. Success at schools level can often depend on what clubs are successful around a particular time. If the clubs that are feeding into a school are successful, then that is reflected. You have the likes of Inagh-Kilnamona, Kilmaley, Clarecastle and Doora Barefield all bringing lads through at the minute and it is massive for St Flannan’s to have them. If you have all those really good hurlers from clubs who are successful at the moment, then you are going to have a good side”.
It has been well documented that this St Flannan’s team have a number of high quality coaches to call on in their bid to regain the famed trophy. Ryan admits having that calibre of people involved is a huge bonus.
“We were lucky enough in our time that it was Jamesie O’Connor’s turn to take us on in First Year and he carried us through to the Harty. This group of players have the likes of Brendan coaching them and he has been putting his life and soul to put his touches on it since they were U-14. When they were in second year, he was taking them down to play in different competitions against really strong sides and he was testing them with that goal of getting back to a Harty final. All the management team are really proud of what they achieved with this group so far and they had set their sights on getting back to the top table. They have to go and perform to see where it will take them after that but they have half the battle done in getting there” he said.
So how does he see it playing out?
“It is very hard at the moment because they conditions we have over the last while have been ruining hurling matches. You would be hoping things improve and that a bit of hurling will be played rather than this dogfight for possession and all that, but I am sure the lads will have them prepared. CBC are relatively new and some would say they are trying to change the tradition down there. St Flannan’s beat a really good team in the semi-final and the hope will be that they can perform on the day, and if they do, then anything goes” he concluded.