WHAT have The Rubberbandits and Ardscoil Ris got in common? Well, apart from the fact that they both like to wield a hurl, they were about the only two things putting a smile on local faces when Limerick hurling was eating itself this time last year.
Rap satirists Rubberbandits are both graduates of the North Circular Road school, which also educated Paul O'Connell, but it's for hurling that it has become famous in the past two years.
It wasn't just that Ardscoil Ris won their first Harty Cup (Munster Schools 'A') title last year, it was how they won it -- after a three-game epic against former All-Ireland champions Thurles CBS. Their odyssey was eventually ended by St Kieran's, Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final, but they were the first Limerick school to get that far since Sexton Street CBS in 1967.
With Limerick senior Niall Moran (one of their teachers) at the helm, they are back defending their Harty crown tomorrow -- and opponents Charleville CBS have caused almost as big a stir this year as Ardscoil did last season.
The last time Charleville reached the final was back in 1938, but they beat Nenagh CBS and Our Lady's Temple-more in the knock-out stages, clocking up 3-17 in their semi-final.
Charleville have a handful of young Limerick lads themselves, including centre-back star David Reidy. The jewel in their attack is 15-year-old Pa O'Callaghan. But they are in for a tough time against an Ardscoil team that retains eight of last year's champions.
They've lost Kevin Downes and Cathal McInerney, but still have two good Clare youngsters in Jamie Shanahan and Martin Moroney and, led by Declan Hannon (already on the Limerick senior panel), Shane Dowling and John Fitzgibbon, they've looked strong all season.
Their semi-final victory over an excellent Flannan's side marked their two-in-a-row credentials and Mark Ryan is back from suspension to strengthen them further.