BY JOHNNY CAROLAN
BIG-MATCH football experience has stood to Hamilton High School on their route to the All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Senior B Hurling Championship final, manager Aidan O’Donoghue feels.
Having won the Munster title in February, the Bandon school saw off Holy Rosary College of Mountbellew, Co Galway in the recent All-Ireland semi-final at Limerick’s Cappamore. The final score was 1-16 to 2-8 for ‘the Hammies’, who now face Offaly’s Coláiste Naomh Cormac for the Paddy Buggy Cup on Saturday, March 18th.
In football, the school competes in the Corn Uí Mhuirí – the top level in Munster – reaching the semi-finals in 2022 as well as the quarter-finals this year. While it’s not easy to combine commitments in both codes, O’Donoghue believes that there are benefits to the dual mandate.
‘It’s a bit of both,’ he says.
‘It’s tough in a way, because two thirds of the hurlers are on the senior football team, so there’s a huge crossover.
‘You’ve club and county stuff thrown in too, so it’s about just managing the situation as best we can with co-operation from both sides.
‘Then, on the other side, there’s a trade-off in that you’ve a positive fitness aspect but the biggest thing is that, when the footballers have gone so well over the last couple of years, it’s had our lads out on big occasions.
‘Playing St Brendan’s in the Corn Uí Mhuirí semi-final in Mallow last year was a big game and all of that is a great experience for them. I don’t think we’ve been fazed by any big occasion this year, they’re solid that way.
‘It has given them great experience.’
While the players involved didn’t win any silverware in yellow and white in the younger age-grades, the Hammies were always competitive and that’s why O’Donoghue felt that there was potential at the outset of the current academic campaign.
‘At the start of the year, we set our target at winning Munster out,’ he says.
‘Where we are now is great, but there was never talk of an All-Ireland. We just took it game by game, really.
‘In the first game, we had Rice College, who were an excellent side. We just about got over them and that started the momentum. Then we had Doon and we beat them comfortably enough in the end – we were in trouble at half-time that day but we had a good second half.
‘The belief began to grow and we’ve been improving and improving as the year has gone on.’
The Hammies team draws players from eight different clubs – Bandon, Courcey Rovers, Diarmuid Ó Mathúnas, Kilbrittain, Newcestown, St Mary’s, St Oliver Plunkett’s and Valley Rovers – and the success for the school has a knock-on effect.
‘I always think back to the Harty Cup,’ says O’Donoghue, who guided a team featuring future Cork players Mike Cahalane, Luke Meade (hurling), Micheál McSweeney (football) and Chris O’Leary (hurling, now playing for Dublin) to the semi-finals of that competition in 2014.
‘There were certain players that time that, when they went back to their clubs, they were different players completely and it was down to the standard that they were playing at that time.
‘This is a level below that, it’s B, but at the same time you’re going back to your club with a Munster medal in your pocket and they’re better for it.’
The good results then lead to a virtuous circle in that school becomes an attractive proposition for young GAA players and they in turn helps to keep up those strong performances.
‘We have been doing well for a good period of time with a lot of different teams,’ says O’Donoghue.
‘We’re definitely attracting the more talented players from the area and we’re obviously hoping that that would continue and grow further and we’d become a nursery for the region.’
Hamilton High v Holy Rosary College: Aaron White; Josh Woods, Charlie O’Sullivan, Jack Cullinane; Kevin Dart-O’Flynn, Cian Johnson, Jonathan O’Leary; Olan Corcoran, Niall Kelly; Darragh McCarthy, Eoin Guinane, Evan O’Shea; Michéal Maguire, Conor O’Sullivan, Sean Ahern. Subs: Harry O’Sullivan, Sean McEntee, James Burrows, Adam Casey, Hugh O’Mahony.
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