Rockwell College and the Harty Cup

Rockwell College Annual 1988, pp 45-48


It may come as a surprise to many that Rockwell College has a very respectable record in the Harty Cup, the Munster Colleges' top hurling competition. Tipperary schools have won the cup on thirteen occasions and Rockwell come second in the table of winners vith five victories to Thurles C.B.S's six. Rockwell's last victory was in 1931 and Thurles C.B.S. achieved theirs in 1956. The Abbey C.B.S. in Tipperary won out in 1959 and the last Tipperary school to succeed was Templemore C.B.S. in 1978. 

Early Days

Various attempts were made to organise games in secondary schools in Munster in the first two decades of this century but the first really successful one was the presentation in 1917 of a cup by Archbishop J. M. Harty, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, for a hurling competition between the secondary schools and colleges in the province. 

The background to this development was a motion to the 1916 County Tipperary G.A.A. Convention from E. D. Ryan of Cashel. The motion called upon the colleges and secondary schools within the county to give our national pastimes a foremost place in their games. E. D. Ryan found it inconceivable how the schools and the colleges of the county could afford to ignore Gaelic games. He suggested that a deputation visit the principals of various colleges to get an explanation from them as to why they didn't give a foremost place to the national games. "The colleges wholly supported the games of snobocracy and this gave an artificial appearance to the youth of the country, who knew nothing about foreign games prior to heir entrance to the colleges", he continued. After some discussion a deputation was appointed and it included E. D. Ryan. 

The next development was a Munster schools' and colleges' meeting at Limerick Junction on June 2. This meeting was called to discuss the position of Gaelic games in the schools and the organisation of a competition or a football cup, put up by the Munster Council. (Dr. Harty's Cup was for a hurling competition). It was agreed that the committee governing the competitions have one member per county and that the chairman have a casting vote. The age limit for the competitions should be nineteen years on the 1st June each year. One of the schools' representatives hoped that the foreign games rule would not be implemented too strictly. It was agreed to meet again in September to organise the competitions for the next school year. At that meeting it was agreed to reduce the age limit to eighteen on January 1st, 1918. 

Football Competition

The football competition got off the ground immediately and was won by Rockwell, who defeated St. Brendan's, Killarney by 2-4 to 0-1 in the semi-final and St. Colman's, Fermoy in the final, which was played at Kimallock. The successful Rockwell side was as follows: E. Reilly (goal), J. Lyons (captain), J. Moran, N. Moroney, T. Ryan, C. M. Vaughan, J. Quinn, W. McCarthy, P. O'Dwyer, T. O'Callaghan, M. Costigan, M. Fox, M. Quinn, S. Hughes, J. Healy. The football competition lapsed after this and wasn't played again until 1928 when it was won by Clonmel High School. So Tipperary schools were victorious on the first two occasions of this premier Munster football competition but haven't been successful since. 

Harty Cup

The draws for the first Harty Cup competition were made in January 1918. Rockwell got a bye in the first round and went on to qualify for the final against Christians College, Cork, at Thurles on April 25th. They had an easy victory, winning by 5-5 to 3-1. The ball was thrown in by Most. Rev. Dr. Harty and afterwards he presented the cup to the Rockwell captain and the medals to the victorious team. The winning side was: J. Daly, M. Collins, E. O'Donnell, M. Fox, K. Egan, J. Quinn, M. Quinn, P. Power, W. Aherne, W. McCarthy, T. Ryan, T. Lynch, T. O'Connor, J. Maher, W. Ryan. 

Further success

Rockwell achieved a double when they won the competition on successive years, 1923 and 1924. The '23 final was played at Thurles on April 22nd, against Limerick C.B.S. The reporter on the "Tipperary Star", set the scene: "Sunday in Thurles reminded me of old days, the old days I mean before the troubles arose in this grand green isle of ours. It was the occasion of the crossing of camans between the boys from Rockwell College, renowned the world over, wherever an Irishman is to be found in educational circles, with the Limerick representatives, or the boys from the Treaty Stone, in the final of the Dr. Harty Cup and set of medals" . 

About a thousand people attended and Rockwell had the better of the exchanges. They were somewhat heavier than their opponents and, with the aid of the breeze, led 3-2 to nil at the interval. In the second half they held the advantage, partly due to bad marksmanship on the part of Limerick, and were ahead by 5-2 t 2-1 at the final whistle. The victorious side was Sheehan (captain), Fleming (goal), Poole, ColI. Foley, Scully, Brosnan, Ryan, Chawke Hickey, Duffy, McCarthy, O'Connell. Hackett, McCall. 

Rockwell retained the cup in 1924 against the same opposition. In earlier games Rockwell beat Thurles by a large margin and North Monastery by 7-5 to 0-1 in the semi-final. Nine schools took part in the competition and the final was played at Thurles on May 18th. According to one report: "It is no exaggeration to say that the meeting of Rockwell College and Limerick C.B.S. provided one of the fastest and most exciting games ever witnessed on the ground with all its memories of thrilling contests. Both sides fielded strong teams - Rockwell perhaps having the advantage in weight - and it was soon evidenced that both were well-trained, well-selected combinations". Limerick scored first but Rockwell led by a goal and a point at the interval and were in front by 7-3 to 3-4 at the final whistle. The winning side was: Teehan (goal), Nicholas, Kennedy, McCarthy, G. White, O'Connell, Jordan, O'Connell, Clarke, Dunphy, P. Powell (captain), Slattery, Kearney, Devinish, Cashman. 

Another Double

Rockwell achieved a second double in 1930 and 1931. On their way to the 1930 final they inflicted a heavy defeat on North Monastery by 11-3 to 2-0. Their opponents in the final were Mount Sion and the game was played at Waterford on March 16th. RockweIl were completely superior. They led by 6-2 to nil at the interval and were 8-2 to 1-1 in front at the final whistle. Fr. Andy Egan, who was in charge of the victorious side, said it was the best fifteen turned out by the college since the Harty Cup began. He said he had been building up the team for a number of years and was delighted with its performance. The lineout isn't quite certain. Thirteen names only appear with the match report in the Rockwell Annual and, like so many teams at that period, may not be in the order in which they played. The thirteen are: T. Walshe, F. Hazel, N. Lawn, T. McCarthy, J. C. O'ConneIl (captain), W. O'Donnell, P. Kennedy, M. O'Keeffe, T. Cummins, L. Dillon, T. O'Dwyer, F. Matthews, M. Tubridy. The remaining two may have been selected from P. Byrne, G. Keely and M. O'Sullivan. 

The Harty Cup was retained in 1931, despite Fr. Andy Egan's fears after the previous year's victory that he wouldn't have any players for the following year. The final was played at Mitchelstown in April against the unlikely opposition of Doon C.B.S. The first half was a hard-fought battle at the end of which Rockwell led 1-1 to nil. The second half was disappointing as a spectacle as RockweIl establised their superiority and ran out easy winners by 6-1 to 1-1. The winning side, not in order of lineout, was as follows: C. Meagher, D. Cronin, T. O'Dwyer, P. McMahon, T. Dillon, M. O'Dwyer, J. McCarthy, P. Maher, M. Ryan, P. Kennedy, T. Walsh, P. O'Sullivan, T. Cummins, J. Brennan, M. Burke, D. Coughlan. 

This fine record of five Harty Cup titles in fourteen years was not continued. Rockwell never again qualified for a final. Rugby took over as the dominant game and equally impressive results were achieved in that code.