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The Harty and Croke Cup - An Unforgettable Journey

The following is an account from School Principal, Patricia Higgins, of Our Lady's Secondary School, Templemore, Co. Tipperary great Hurling journey this year. 

As we bask in the warm afterglow of our epic victory over hurling giants, St. Kieran’s College at Semple Stadium on March 25th, the scale of the achievement gradually begins to sink in. St. Kieran’s arrived in force for the final, their banner proclaiming “21 to 1 – mind the gap”.

In truth, they needed to “mind the hunger”. In a game that celebrated everything that is noble in sport, Our Lady’s demonstrated that tradition, resources, and entitlement count for little when confronted with raw courage, exquisite skill and unwavering self-belief.

After a thrilling hour’s hurling that brought players and supporters alike to the brink of exhaustion, the attendance of over 3,000 knew they had witnessed something extraordinary and looked on in rapt admiration as the Croke Cup was presented to the proud Captain, Paddy Cadell.

An unforgettable year began quietly with the predictable routine of training sessions in the school pitch interspersed with challenge games against carefully chosen opponents.

For Mr. Noel Fogarty, in his tenth year as Harty Coach and for Mr. Tom Byrnes, after a busy summer on his farm, the presence of six of Tipp’s All Ireland winning minors on the Harty team and, in particular, Brian Mc Grath’s decision to return to school must have added an extra note of urgency to the well-worn routine.

For Harty Cup enthusiasts in the school and in the Community, after just short of the biblical forty years wandering in the wilderness, any talk of a return to the Promised Land fell on doubting ears. How many times in the past had we heard that we were “in with a real chance this year”?

The qualifying games against one time greats, St. Flannan’s and Bandon High School were tame affairs with neither opposition posing any threat to Our Lady’s. Only the prospect of a quarter-final tie with near neighbours, and arch-rivals, Thurles C.B.S. could get the adrenalin flowing.

The outcome of this game was most pleasing from a Templemore point of view. The C.B.S. who looked impressive in their qualifying games were completely outclassed and finished ten points in arrears on a scoreline of 3 -14 to 1-10. The victory over Thurles was a triumph in itself. Of course we still wanted the Harty but at least the old enemy was conquered, and now we really began to believe!

The semi –final against Nenagh C.B.S. at Toomevara on January 28th brought out the crowds who were treated to a full blooded, tense contest made memorable by Andrew Ormond’s sixteenth minute goal, some magic touches by Lyndon Fairbrother and the brilliant goalkeeping of Eoin Collins. The final score of 1-15 to 0-14 in favour of Templemore was greeted with relief by the team and their supporters.

The final against Coleman’s of Fermoy was played at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick on February 18th. Our cheerleaders, whose growing confidence matched that of their team, were in place early and were in full voice among the crowd of over 8,000 before the ball was thrown in.

It soon became clear that the game would provide some respite for the overwrought nerves of the Templemore parents and supporters. Coleman’s were no match for us and the game petered out on a score line of 2-22 to 1-6 with Our Lady’s capturing the elusive trophy for the first time in 39 years. Of course we would have loved a tighter game but that did not diminish the joy and relief felt all round as Paddy Cadell lifted the Harty Cup.

An All-Ireland appearance seemed unimportant on Saturday evening when the winning team returned to a rapturous welcome in Templemore. But as the days passed, tension began to grow again in anticipation of a semi-final showdown with Kilkenny C.B.S. one of the top two hurling schools in Kilkenny and Leinster.

They had only been narrowly defeated in the Leinster final by their neighbours, St. Kieran’s. The semi- final played at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise was a thrilling contest where the true character of our team was revealed. The C.B.S. played with guts and self-belief, and while the three points that separated the sides in the end probably flattered the challengers, we were relieved to get over the game and make it to the final.

The final itself has been well described in print and other media. It is enough to say that the writers and commentators had to dig deep to find words to convey the full significance of what was achieved in the course of the 2016-2017 Harty and Croke campaigns by a skilful and dedicated group of players led by two passionate and energetic coaches.

Pictured above are the panel and mentors of Our Lady's Secondary School, Templemore. 

As a school community we are immensely proud of our team’s achievement this year. We thank the panel and their managers, Mr. Byrne and Mr. Fogarty for the honour they have brought to the school.

We look forward to building on their success in all areas of school life in the coming years.

We are most grateful for the enthusiastic support we got from our own students and parents, and from the wider community who were behind us on every step of the exciting journey.

All Ireland Final Croke Cup Photos