Rochestown's dual stars striving for historic Harty Cup triumph
Rookies St Francis juggling hurling and football ahead of final clash with Thurles CBS
It has already been a remarkable year for St Francis College Rochestown. The Cork school have won the O'Callaghan Cup and Simcox Cup and this afternoon (1.30) will contest the Harty Cup final, before turning their focus to the Corn Uí Mhuirí decider.
Twelve months ago, in their first time entering the Harty Cup, they were knocked out in an agonising semi-final defeat, but according to selector Humphrey Canty, this year's team is much more rounded.
Trying to find the right balance between hurling, football and school work has been a challenge but Canty, who is also a teacher in the school, is adamant that they are managing it correctly.
"We take it week by week. One week is hurling and the next is football," Canty explains.
"It's a balancing act between the two sports and academics and I think we have it down to a fine art."
There are 12 starting players from the Harty Cup team who are also playing football but Canty maintains that there isn't any conflict between the two sports.
"Most of these lads haven't had a week off since October so they've been going hell for leather ever since. We've been very lucky that we haven't suffered many injuries," he explains.
"Everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet which certainly helps and which ever team has a championship game coming up, they'll take priority over the other.
"These players are very high achievers and all want to go on to college so it's important that we get that balance right."
Given their progress since last year, it would seem that St Francis College have a gifted group of young players but Canty is eager to point out that their success hasn't occurred overnight.
Drawing on the underage success of local clubs like Blackrock and Douglas has been crucial as well as the school's numbers steadily increasing over the last decade.
"This isn't something that has happened this year. It's been more of a process. Guys like the Cadogans have shown the younger lads what can be achieved," says Canty.
"The good thing about this year's team is that it's very balanced. It's probably more of a team than last year - there are no standout players.
"There are about six or seven lads who played in last year's semi-final defeat but I don't think they'll play on that too much."
Rochestown went some way to putting last year's semi-final defeat behind them by dethroning defending champions Ard Scoil Ris but they harbour much greater ambitions than that.
Thurles CBS stand in their way of a maiden title but Canty and his team will be staying focused on their own game plan, despite the fact that they are major underdogs this afternoon.
"It was a big hurdle for us to get over (the semi-final) and the fact that we did, we're determined to keep going," he says. "CBS weren't set out as favourites last October for no reason. It'll be a huge battle but we'll be sticking to our own game-plan like we've been doing all year."
Having been on mid-term break for the last week, the players have been away from a school that Canty says has been "buzzing".
He is hoping that works to their advantage, but he doesn't believe the same can be said for the fact that the final is being held in Cork.
"There's definitely been a buzz around the place but being on mid-term break this week has probably helped," he says. "No one is over-hyping it and we're just keeping our heads down. A lot of the players did their pre-Leaving Cert exams last week so that was another distraction.
"I don't believe the venue makes any difference. If the final had been held in Donegal, the local communities would travel to it. I know our supporters would travel much further than Mallow.
"It would be unbelievable to win it and a real historic moment to bring the cup back to the school."