Buckley confident Thurles can claim Harty revenge
THE Dr Harty Cup quarter-finals got under way last week, but perhaps the most mouthwatering tie takes place today, as Thurles CBS and Ardscoil Ris meet once again, in a rematch of last year's final.
The Limerick men eventually shook off the challenge of their Tipperary opponents after three attempts in 12 days last April, and although many of the participants have moved on from school, there are enough returnees to fan the flames of memory.
For Ardscoil, there is much to build on. They were made to earn their first title, pushed all the way before finally ending a long wait to lift the trophy.
They went on to the All Ireland final, but the long road out of Munster took its toll as they came up short against St Kieran's, Kilkenny.
2009 Harty and All-Ireland champions Thurles have four of last year's team back in action, among them Aidan McCormack and Michael O'Brien, who reached the Munster club final with Thurles Sarsfields, and will lead the attack.
Former Tipperary defender Eamonn Buckley is in charge of this year's crop and while he wasn't managing the team last year, he admits losing the final will serve as motivation.
His side might lack the Harty experience, but with a host of the team that won the Dean Ryan Cup (U-16) and 11 of the Tipperary team that won the All-Ireland at that level, the Thurles boys will have little to fear, despite what they might lack in size.
They had a big defeat to St Flannan's in the group stages, however, and Buckley is hoping will stand to them in in Tipperary town today.
"We'd be hopeful we can do ourselves justice and get revenge for last year," he said. "St Flannan's gave us a 10-point trimming (in October) -- we learnt a lot more that day than we would have learned if we had won.
"We played well in the second half against Blackwater to get through and we'd be hoping that that has brought us on an awful lot.
"Ardscoil will be favourites with so many of last year's team back, but we have faith in our lads. They're young, but they're good hurlers.
"The four lads should be anyway, and then the rest of the lads should have a clean slate, they'd have no baggage and no fear of Ardscoil Ris. They should have won the All-Ireland last year in my eyes, but hopefully our lads will go out without any fear."
Ardscoil manager Derek Larkin has eight of last year's side in harness and the likes of Limerick minors John Fitzgibbon, Shane Dowling and Mark Carmody will gel with Clare's Jamie Shanahan in a formidable side.
They might have gone close to the All-Ireland last year, but Larkin is refusing to contemplate anything other than getting past the quarter-final stage this time around.
"Last year will certainly stand to us," he said. "It was all new to us, we'd been in a couple of semi-finals, but that was our first final. We're no more experienced than Thurles are and judging by last year's finals there is very little between the sides.
"We certainly feel that we had an opportunity to win the All-Ireland last year, but it's a different team, a different set up this year. You wouldn't look beyond this match. We have a hugely tough draw."
St Flannan's await the winners, while Our Lady's Templemore and Midleton CBS will also be looking for a semi-final spot in their replay in Cahir this afternoon.