MARTIN BOURKE REMEMBERS it as if it was only yesterday.
The year was 1978, when Templemore CBS won the Harty Cup.
Now Our Lady’s secondary school, the chance to end a 39-year wait has presented itself again.
Our Lady’s will do battle with Fermoy’s St Colman’s College at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday for the coveted silverware and Bourke, captain of the ’78 team, will be more than an interested spectator.
After winning the Corn Phádraig (B) competition in 1974, Templemore were granted access to the Harty Cup at the quarter-final stage.
They beat Colaiste Iognaid Rís from Cork in the last eight but were comprehensively beaten by Farranferris at the semi-final stage.
Four years later, Templemore ruled the roost in the prestigious Munster post primary schools competition and the team that lined out on that occasion, against St Flannan’s, was as follows:
Templemore CBS: Pat Hassett (Errill); Martin Bourke (Clonmore, Captain), Peter Brennan (Loughmore Castleiney), Richard Stapleton (Loughmore Castleiney); Pat Cormack (Loughmore Castleiney), Mick Ryan (BorrisIleigh, 1-1), Jim Maher (Loughmore Castleiney ); Pat McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney, 0-1), Mick Ryan (Clonmore); Bobby Ryan (Borris-Ileigh), Liam Farrelly (Templemore), Noel Fogarty (Templemore, 2-0); Pat Treacy (Loughmore Castleiney), Eamon Cody (Clonmore, 0-3), Joe Bourke (Clonmore) Subs – Brendan Russell (Clonakenny), Noel Farrelly (Templemore), John Hanley (Templemore), Timmy Stapleton (Loughmore Castleiney), Frankie McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney), Jim Kennedy (Drom Inch), Joe Sweeney (Loughmore Castleiney).
Bourke captained the team from right corner back and other notable team members were Pat McGrath – father of Tipperary All-Ireland senior medallists Noel and John.
Pat’s son Brian, who captained Tipperary’s 2016 All-Ireland minor winning crop, is one of the key players on the current Our Lady’s team.
Pat himself is a former Tipperary senior captain and in 1989, another of the ’78 crew, Bobby Ryan, led the Premier County to All-Ireland senior glory.
“We had a panel of 22,” Bourke recalls of 1978.
“There would have been nine from Loughmore and eight from Templemore-Clonmore, the one parish. So from those two clubs, you had 17 of the 22 players.
“Two from Borris-Ileigh, one from Drom & Inch, one from Clonakenny and Pat Hassett in the goal from Errill.”
Templemore went on to win the All-Ireland title after their Harty win, defeating st Peter’s of Wexford by 2-11 to 1-4.
Since then, Our Lady’s have contested four finals (2002, 2002, 2013 and 2016), losing them all.
But throughout the 2016/17 Harty Cup campaign, expectation levels have grown that this could finally be their time again.
At the quarter-final and semi-final stages, Our Lady’s saw off fellow Tipperary opponents Thurles CBS and Nenagh CBS respectively, leaving them within touching distance of the Holy Grail.
“I take a huge interest in it,” says Bourke, a noted historian.
“I follow their games every year and I’d be interested in how they’re progressing in the Harty.
“I’d be as happy as I was 39 years ago if they could win it.
“I took a phone call not so long ago from Richard Stapleton, who was on the team with me.
“All the talk was Harty Cup, Harty Cup, Harty Cup, and what’s the chance of them doing it this year?
“He’d be as knowledgable about it and he’s up in Dublin. There’s a great bond with the past players and we’re all hoping that the 39-year gap can be bridged.”
Tipperary’s 2001 All-Ireland winning centre-back David Kennedy, from the nearby Loughmore-Castleiney club, recalls playing one year of Harty Cup hurling in the mid-90s while a student at Our Lady’s.
A game he vividly recalls is a defeat to St Flannan’s in Limerick, when a fruit fight broke out between students from both schools at half-time.
“Somebody somewhere managed to get their hands on apples and oranges,” Kennedy smiles.
“There were plenty of them around the place. I was looking up into the stand and there they were.”
That’s one of Kennedy’s more colourful memories but he hurled with Our Lady’s at a time when the school was going through a lean period.
Indeed, Our Lady’s returned to the B grade for a spell before coming back up, with former Tipperary county board chairman John Costigan spearheading the revival.
“John Costigan was the main man, when it came to putting teams on the field, coaching teams and what have you” says Kennedy.
“He was a legend even before you went in there. We would have heard about John in primary school and if you wanted to play hurling and get on the team, you had to impress him.
“And if you had any type of hurling reputation coming into first year, he would have known, with his ear to the ground. He was a force, to say the least.”
Kennedy, who was a 1994 All-Ireland B winning captain with Our Lady’s, remembers Costigan’s coaching methods as being simple, yet effective.
Lunch-time was given over for training, one fella on one side of the pitch and another on the other side, and it was hit as many balls as you could at each other during lunchtime. It was all about touch and striking, very subtle stuff. We didn’t have the facilities that are there now, we had a very small pitch which wouldn’t even have been a juvenile pitch.
“The pitch we had is now turned into a car park and they built a school extension on it.
“What we had wasn’t even an acre, really tight with a cattle mart on one side and the road on the other side.
“That wasn’t down to any lack of effort on the school’s behalf – that was just the way it was.
“And sometimes we were lucky enough to get down and use the JK Brackens field. The school didn’t have the money to be pumping into Harty Cup teams and there was no such thing as fancy jerseys or gear – it was all very basic but lads were happy to play and loved playing for the school. It was a big deal to get on the school team.”
For many years, a picture of the victorious 1978 team hung on the wall and the hurleys used by the players were on display in a glass cabinet, prior to a recent rebuilding job.
If the walls could talk, they’d tell some stories and Kennedy acknowledges that the current players have the chance “to write themselves into the history books.”
He adds: “If you get on a school team that wins a Harty, it means you’re a good player.
“You’re either playing county minor or you’re on the verge of getting onto a (county) panel.
“And you’re one of a select group of players that has won a Harty in Templemore.
“Your name goes into the history books and that’s a massive carrot.
“Look at the hurling clubs supplying the school, they’re all small clubs like Drom & Inch, Loughmore, Clonakenny, Borris-Ileigh, not a huge catchment area or population but good clubs.
“It can be challenging to get players good enough to win a Harty.”
Our Lady’s do have players good enough this time. Last year, they lost out to Ardscoil Rís in the final but the chance for redemption is here.
And the spirit of ’78 would do them no harm at all. Nine points down with 15 minutes left, two Noel Fogarty goals turned the tie on its head and the rest is history. Now, as Kennedy pointed out, there’s more to be written.
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