2020 Harty Cup Final Preview: St Flannan’s College Ennis v CBC (Cork)
No matter what way this one pans out on Saturday afternoon, there will be an element of history about it.
From a Clare perspective, the hope will be that their second longest run without the famed trophy will come to an end with 2005 being their last victory. The current 15 year gap is only beaten by the barren spell between 1958 and 1976 with St Flannan’s looking to cement their place at the competitions kings by winning their 22nd title.
On the other side of that coin is a CBC side who are bidding for their first title. They also have the distinction of having contested the first ever Harty Cup final in 1918 when they lost out to Rockwell College, but they had to wait another 101 years before getting back to the decider 12 months ago.
They will make that bid with the hurt of last year’s final loss fresh in their memories. The wound was likely deepened by the fact it was their fellow Rebel school of Midleton CBS who proved the masters that day, but the perfect ointment was found when they exacted revenge in this year’s semi-final with a dramatic one point win.
Jack Cahalane spearheads a potent inside line for the Cork side, and keeping his influence to the absolute minimum will likely be a task handed to Darragh Healy. It will not be an easy one, with the St Finbarr’s clubman notching 1-17 in his last two games. 1-5 of that tally has come from play, but he has shown brilliant form from placed balls and is central to everything CBC try to do up front. He also has a tendency to drift away from the edge of the square and if that continues, it could well be Jarlath Collins who is told to pick him up. Collins is no stranger to the role of keeping tabs on a marquee forward after a fine job on JD Devanney last time out. Special attention will also need to be paid to corner-forward Daire Burke, who has found the net in their last two outings and is one of those players who only needs to see the corner of the goal for the fleetest of moments before he finds it.
The role of Cian Galvin will once more be central for Kevin O’Grady and Brendan Bugler to manage. It was clear to everyone in Nenagh three weeks ago that when Galvin is released to drive at the centre of an opposition defence, it is a deadly weapon to have in your arsenal. It was also clear to see that if the opposition leave him free to dominate from the half-back line, they might as well throw the towel in because he will continually mop up possession.
At the other end of the field, St Flannan’s will know that there are scores there for them to go after. Conner Hegarty and Diarmaid Cahill might have had quiet afternoons in their semi-final win, but that was only by their own very high standards. Add in the power and work-rate of Oisín O’Donnell, Ashley Brohan, Peter Power and Killian O’Connor, and you get the sense that St Flannan’s will keep that scoreboard ticking over in Mallow. They will have to, and they will also have to show further improvements from that win over Templemore. It was a brilliant display, but the cold hard analysis will have shown that the Tipperary men left easy scores behind at critical junctures, so there is no doubt but that management will have stressed the need to keep those chances to a minimum this time around. Keeping the pathway to Cian Broderick’s goal well marshalled will also be crucial, with St Flannan’s only clean sheet of the season coming in their quarter-final win over Tulla. They cannot allow CBC to get in for goals, and will be well on their way to victory if they can provide that cover.
On the balance of play, there is no reason why St Flannan’s cannot win this. It is a team, and crucially a squad, laden with talent and intercounty experience who will not be fazed by the big day. They have come through plenty battles along the road to Saturday and while another one undoubtedly lies ahead, they should overcome it once more.
Verdict: St Flannan’s.