St Augustine’s Abbeyside continued their excellent record in recent Post Primary competitions by qualifying for the Masita GAA All Ireland Post Primary Schools Michael Cusack Cup (Senior C Hurling) final last weekend.
Now an unprecedented All-Ireland hurling and football double is now on the cards for the Waterford school, an invaluable nursery to their county’s GAA fortunes.
Last weekend they enjoyed an outstanding 2-21 – 1-8 win over Holy Rosary Mountbellew at Abbotstown on Sunday and are already in the final of the Eamon O’Sullivan Cup (SF ‘C’).
And as they aim to bring All-Ireland glory back to the Friary for only the second time they could be on the verge of a famous double.
Their current bout of rude health can be traced back to a huge push in the direction five years ago.
“2013 was a vintage year for the Friary,” explains team mentor and schoolteacher Daragh Duggan, who is highly tipped for prominent coaching roles in the years ahead.
“We became the first Waterford school to win an All-Ireland colleges title when we defeated Scoil Mhuire, Strokestown in Newbridge.
“2012 and 2013 also saw us join with Dungarvan CBS to compete as Dungarvan Colleges. Together, we brought the Dr. Harty Cup to West Waterford and had an unexpected two in a row. So, momentum has been building for the past few years.
“This year our hurlers have improved steadily throughout the campaign and that has been great to see,” Duggan continued.
As well as progressing in the hurling competition, the same group of players has also reached the All-Ireland football final and hopes are high that they can complete a unique double.
“That would be great,” Duggan enthuses. “But it’s been slow and steady in each code and thankfully we’re going well. We have just won Munster senior hurling honours for the first time since 2009 and confidence is high.”
Featuring on that 2009 team was current Friary teacher/football manager, Paul Whyte, who captains the Waterford senior footballers and is renowned as one of the top free-takers in the game.
“Reaching a Colleges All Ireland, let alone winning one is difficult enough but we have no doubt this year’s group will leave it all out on the field in their attempts to bring all Ireland glory back to the Friary for just a second time,” Duggan finishes.
The school has always promoted both codes equally and they are reaping their rewards now.
Footballers such as Shane Briggs, Gary Hurney and current teacher Paul Whyte as well as hurlers Peter Queally, Seamus and Declan Prendergast, Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh and, in later years, Tom Devine and Tadhg de Burca have all worn the red & black of the Friary.
With the weather playing havoc with last weekend’s fixtures, the other Michael Cusack Cup semi-final did, at least, reach completion with St. Fintan’s HS prevailing against St Patrick’s HS Keady.
Meanwhile, the Br. Edmund Ignatius Rice Cup (Senior D Football) semi-final between Oaklands Community College and St Marys Limavady was a thriller with Oaklands winning by just a point, 2-11 – 3-7.
Coming up next is a serious programme of matches this week with the Croke Cup Quarter Finals being staged on Wednesday and capturing huge attention.
St Brigid’s Loughrea will play St Colman’s Fermoy while Presentation College Athenry take on Kilkenny CBS.
Kilkenny CBS were beaten by four points in their recent Leinster final against St Kieran’s College who made it a hat-trick of provincial schools senior hurling titles on the spin against their local rivals.
But they had to come from behind to see off the CBS who were spurred on by their captain Niall Brassil, and who stormed into a 0-7 to 0-4 lead late in the first half.
While Kieran’s were quick off the mark after the restart, and had an extra gear in the second half, they still couldn’t shake off the CBS, who fought back to level the game on three occasions.
Watching that game was the Presentation Athenry management who saw the spread of scorers that CBS had. “We know a lot about them but they know us too,” said Presentation Athenry manager Colm Larkin.
Athenry may have to do without the services of Connacht and Ireland under 18 winger, Hugh Lane, who could be tied up with rugby commitments.
Lane was one of four Connacht players who earned representative honours last November and is also a star hurler, having played at wing back last year.
He was one of the school’s stars against Árdscoil Ris in last year’s absorbing All Ireland Post Primary Schools semi-final one-point defeat. On Wednesday, Lane will be hoping his teammates can get back to the last four once more with a win over CBS.
COLMAN’S GIVING CORK A BOOST
The other Croke Cup quarter-final promises to be just as enjoyable as St Colman’s come off the back of a disappointing Dr Harty Cup final and meet St Brigid’s Loughrea who recently won the Connacht title.
No Cork school has won a Harty Cup since Middleton in 2006 but four Cork Colleges – Hamilton High School Bandon, Rochestown College, Pobalscoil Na Tríonóide and Gaelcolaiste Mhuire AG – reached the 2015 Dr Harty Cup quarter-finals. Rochestown, St Colman’s and Christian Brothers Cork (CBC) made the last eight of the 2016 Harty Cup.
Driving St Colman’s is their good form in the Dean Ryan Cup (Munster U16.5) over the past few years.
In Niall O’Leary, Diarmuid Linehan and Brian Roche, St Colman’s are fielding players good enough to play senior hurling for Cork in the future. Jack O’Connor, Josh Beausang, Matthew Bradley and Evan Sheehan are also highly rated.
They will be eager to make amends after their Harty Cup final set-back and the general consensus is that the big occasion may have unsettled them and they have much more in them.