A first Harty Cup final appearance since 2007 is the goal for St Flannan’s this weekend when they go to McDonagh Park in Nenagh to face Our Lady’s Templemore.
The Ennis school came through a tricky local derby against St Joseph’s Tulla in a historic quarter-final tie, with Diarmaid Cahill’s outstanding individual goal in the final quarter eventually swinging the balance in their favour. St Flannan’s have been improving in each of their outings so far in this campaign with a perfect record in the group stages before that win over Tulla. They have been forced to come through some stern tests along the way too, but there is a real sense that there is even more to come from a hugely talented squad.
All that has to be measured against the fact that they are probably coming up against their toughest opponents to date. The Tipperary outfit began their campaign with an eye-catching win over a fancied Ardscoil Rís side, and while defeat was their lot against table toppers CBC, they bounced back in impressive fashion to easily beat Rochestown in their final group game. They have been racking up big scores so far with a combined tally of 6-61 from their two group victories, while JD Devanney’s late goal to beat Thurles took their total on that day to 1-17.
Devanney is the obvious danger man to watch for St Flannan’s, so their defensive structure is going to be crucial on the day. Cian Galvin’s role will be central to that so it remains to be seen if he is deployed as the free man between the lines which would offer an extra layer of cover should Devanney be operating in the inside line. A decision will also be needed as to whether Darragh Healy is detailed to man mark Devanney, or perhaps Tony Butler could be the man to keep tabs on the chief scorer.
Midfield looks to be the area where St Flannan’s can really dominate with Conner Hegarty and Oisín O’Donnell in excellent form so far. Hegarty’s pace coupled with O’Donnell’s power makes them a potent duo and that attacking threat will be a major one. Killian O’Connor, Diarmaid Cahill and Peter Power will take plenty watching up front with Jarlath Collins and Ashley Brohan’s workrate creating plenty problems.
Nothing will come easy, and at this stage of a championship it never will. St Flannan’s have looked to have the bit between their teeth from the outset this year with a real target on making the most of an excellent group of hurlers. If they can limit the damage the Templemore forwards inflict, then they will be half-way there. The amount of firepower in the St Flannan’s front six coupled with the power and pace in the middle third could well be enough to see them over the line and one step closer to title number 22.
Verdict: St Flannan’s.
The game will be live streamed on the Clare Champion Facebook page from 12.50pm this Saturday afternoon.