As we head out this weekend for Sean Treacy Park, Tipperary Town, for another chapter in the proud history of Harty Cup Finals which commenced back in 1918 we must look at the schools that engage in this unique showdown and ask ourselves how they arrived here and what makes them what they are.
Dungarvan Colleges created their own piece of history in 2012 when they inscribed their name on the prestigious trophy for the very first time with an emphatic victory over Nenagh CBS. They are a combination of two schools St. Augustine’s and the Christian Brothers who cater for the boys in the catchment areas of that beautiful seaside town of Dungarvan.
Our Lady’s is also an amalgamation of two schools Templemore C.B.S. and the Convent of Mercy that merged for educational purposes in 1985 and who celebrated their silver jubilee in 2010. It is a coeducational school with approximately 500 pupils equally divided between boys and girls. The clubs in the catchment area that feeds into the school would comprise of Loughmore- Castleiney, JK Brackens part of Drom & Inch, Templederry Kenyons, Clonakenny, Moyne Templetuohy, part of Toomevara, Errill and Killea, The school, despite its size, has over the years boxed above its weight in the competitive world that is Munster Colleges and Tipperary Championships.
The first ever Munster Colleges competition won by Templemore CBS was the Kinnane Cup in 1958. The team was captained by Michael Smith who subsequently carved out a very successful political career. The following decade saw further successes in the form of silverware arrive in the Templemore School and gradually it began to establish itself as a nursery of some substance.
The seventies saw the school become a very important player in schools hurling competitions winning titles in different age brackets. The high point was reached in April 1978 when Clonmore’s Martin Bourke brought the Harty Cup to the school for its first time. It was a day when the real spirit of Templemore CBS was on show. With fifteen minutes to go they were nine points in arrears of St. Flannans and staring defeat. Heroic displays by future Tipperary All Ireland senior winning captain Bobby Ryan, Pat McGrath (father of current star John), Jim Maher, Peter Brennan and a brace of goals by current teacher in school Noelie Fogarty enabled a nine point deficit to be turned into a two point victory and create memories of a never to be forgotten occasion.
Subsequent to the amalgamation in 1985 success in the different schools competitions were thin on the ground. Teams were affiliated in all grades every year and those selected to wear the famous maroon shirt did so with pride. The school was always respected as great competitors who at all time played a sporting brand of hurling and football that reflected well on the school.
The early years of Our Lady’s saw Camogie take a prominent place on the schools sporting scene. This came about due to the excellent work of PE teacher Teresa Brennan. The school has already won the Munster junior camogie title and will be looking towards All Ireland honours in a few weeks time. The fighting spirit so much lauded in the Harty Cup displays is also the hallmark of the girl’s performances and I take this opportunity to wish them well in their pursuit of the big prize.
When Tipperary came out of the wilderness to capture the 1989 All Ireland senior hurling title showing great fighting spirit especially in the games against Cork and Galway the leader of that Tipp team was a Templemore CBS man, the one and only Bobby Ryan. He was ably assisted by fellow Templemore past pupils, the energetic Aidan Ryan, the stylish Pat McGrath and that capable forward from Loughmore Castleiney John Cormack.
Once more in 1991 when Tipperary brought home the McCarthy Cup, the fighting qualities of the Ryan Brothers, the solid defence of current Tipperary Senior hurling assistant manager Ml Ryan and the attacking skills of Conor Stakelum and Ned Ryan, Loughmore Castleiney, insured that the Templemore schools contribution was appreciated and suitably celebrated.
In the nineties under the banner of Our Lady’s Templemore became a big player in all Munster and Tipperary colleges competitions. The spirit and fighting qualities so much admired in the C.B.S days was not only replicated but improved upon by teams carrying the Our Lady’s flag.
Under the leadership of the lion hearted David Kennedy Our Lady’s won the All Ireland senior (B) hurling championship in 1994. The team included Eamon Corcoran, the Ormond Brothers, Ken Dunne, PJ Sweeney, Darren Owens, Denis Kelly and Declan Laffan just to mention a few.
In Tipperary’s All Ireland senior hurling victory in 2001 it was a source of great pleasure in the school that it was an our Lady’s man, the stylish Tommy Dunne that led the team to victory. He was ably assisted by five more of Our Lady’s past pupils Eamon Corcoran, Paul Ormond, David Kennedy, Terry Dunne and current Tipperary All Ireland winning minor selector Noel Morris.
In 2010 when Tipp once more captured the McCarthy cup past pupils from Our Lady’s played important roles in that memorable victory over the “Cats”. Who will ever forget the skill of Noel McGrath the hard work of Gearóid Ryan and the final flourish of Benny Dunne on that memorable September evening on Jones Road.
In 2011 when Tipperary bridged a seventy six year gap by capturing the All Ireland minor football title the team was captained by Our Lady’s Liam McGrath ably assisted by his cousin John and O’Riordan brothers Colin and Alan.
Our Lady’s have made major contributions to Tipperary’s last three minor hurling victories. In 2006 Noel McGrath, Gearóid Ryan, Shane Bourke and Johnny Ryan brought medals to the school. In 2007 the standard bearers were Noel McGrath and Moyne Templetuohy’s Liam Butler. In 2012 Thomas Hamill, John McGrath and Colin O’Riordan did Our Lady’s proud in their contribution to an excellent success.
Yes indeed Our Lady’s have a proud history with a great fighting spirit that not only is reflected in the teams performance on the field of play but it also permeates activities curricular and extracurricular within the school.
During the course of the year I have been following the progress of the schools Harty Cup team. Few expected them at the outset to qualify from the group. That was achieved by meticulous preparation by their colourful manager Tom Byrnes and his assistant Martin Burke.
The quarter final against Midleton CBS saw Templemore take the field as outsiders but after an honest whole hearted performance in atrocious conditions, a Brian Kennedy point in injury time qualified the school for semi final against Ardscoil Rís.
I believe the Bainisteoir, a man not adverse to a little flutter, was incensed before the semi-final when his team was quoted 2/1 by Paddy Power. For once the bookmaker got it wrong as in the contest it was very much an even money game. It was a game that had spectators on the edge of their seats for sixty minutes and in the end it took the heroism of Colin Ó Riordan with a point in injury time to give us all another day out.
The replay two weeks ago was another memorable contest and for a team that up to then was very much built around the big three (Captain) Jason Ryan, McGrath and Ó Riordan we witnessed more young men step up to the plate and that in itself augers well for Our Lady’s chance in Sunday’s final. They have grown in stature with each game in the competition and their honesty and commitment has endeared them to their legion of followers.
What’s in store for Our Lady’s loyal followers on Sunday, I don’t know but for one that has marvelled over the years at the ability of school teams to defy the odds I must say I am optimistic.
The family atmosphere that is the hallmark of school teams from Our Lady’s over the years is very much in evidence. Whatever club rivalry that exists vanishes once they put on the maroon shirt and they hurl with a spirit and unity of purpose that is most refreshing and very much to be admired.
They go into the final as outsiders and it is my belief that they will give their huge following something to cheer about on Sunday. In conclusion don’t be surprised if the team’s anthem “Tommy’s winning matches” doesn’t have another verse added to it on Sunday evening.
“Molain sibh as bhur gaisce go dti seo agus go n-éirí go geal libh ar an Domhnach”.
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