Cork’s Séamus Harnedy looks ready to graduate with honours in a hurry

The forward has taken his impressive form with UCC into Cork’s senior side

Cork’s man of the match in their unexpected Munster semi-final defeat of Clare may have been the only debutant on the team but Séamus Harnedy’s hurling formation is impressive.

Both of his parents were inter-county hurlers, his father Seán with Waterford and his mother Cathy Landers is the proud possessor of All-Ireland medals, won at minor and four times at senior for Cork as well a club medal with Killeagh.

“My mother has six All-Ireland medals,” he said. “I’ve a bit of catching up there – I don’t know if I’ll get there to be honest – as all I’ve to show is two Fitzgibbons and a Freshers (medal). It’s nice to win a game and get the opportunity to win a medal. I get a bit of slagging off the college lads that I’m not as good as the mother.”

His path through UCC’s distinguished hurling hot house has also helped to advance his game to the point where Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy handed him the jersey for the first time in the league last March and again last week for the county’s first championship match of the year.

His performance in the half forwards, from where he scored three points, was described by Barry-Murphy as “outstanding” and earned the television Man of the Match award. The team display made a mockery of pre-match predictions and places the county in a final for the first time in three years and in pursuit of a first Munster title in seven.

Harnedy said that the lack of success in the county was a driver for the team.

“We haven’t won much at underage – we haven’t won anything for years, so we were only delighted to have a go at a Munster semi-final. We relished the opportunity and thank God we took it . . .

"The bottom line is . . . we've had heartbreaks over the years. We thought we'd win U-21 titles but ended up with no silverware. We'll go back training on Tuesday with all guns blazing for three weeks' time and hopefully bring back some silverware to Cork."

Dominant force
His UCC career has also been impressive at a time when the Cork college has been the dominant force at third-level, recognised in the two Fitzgibbon medals he has won in the past two years – scoring a goal in this year's final against Mary I while the other was scored by his colleague in the half forward line on Sunday, Conor Lehane.

Harnedy was quick to acknowledge the role of both the Fitzgibbon and the late Paul O’Connor, who passed away last autumn and who had done so much for hurling in UCC both as a player and in more recent times as a coach.

“It’s fantastic. It’s a breeding ground for all the young players. You’ve Pat O’Connor and Séadna Morey (opponents on Sunday) all playing Fitzgibbon. It’s your first opportunity to test yourself in a year as it’s early on in the year.

“You gear yourself towards intercounty players. It’s a fantastic competition. I love Fitzgibbon hurling myself, I love that time of the year and it just gave me a good base for inter-county hurling.

“Paul O’Connor in fairness was one of the lads that gave me my original breakthrough with the Fitzgibbon team. God rest his soul, he gave me a chance. Thankfully from there, things fell into place . . .

"I've no doubt he was looking down on all of us out there. I think there were 10 represented from UCC in the Cork team today (Nash, O'Sullivan, O'Neill, Egan, Kenny, Kearney, Harnedy, Lehane, O'Farrell, Moylan). Paul along with Paddy Crowley and the Kingstons all put a lot into us and thank God we were able to pay something back today. But as I keep emphasising we've nothing won yet. Hopefully in three weeks time, we'll do that."

Fourteen years ago Jimmy Barry-Murphy managed Cork to an All-Ireland with three of the hurlers who helped to bring a three-in-a-row to UCC in the late 1990s: John Browne, Seán McGrath and Joe Deane. Can this year's class graduate with similar honours?