What was described as a “fairy tale” was played out on a vicious day lost from Winter, but Kilkenny CBS were left singing in the rain.
The James Street brave hearts defied a howling, biting gale, lashing, stinging rain and gutsy opponents Midleton CBS (Cork) to score a historic victory in the Masita GAA All-Ireland post primary schools junior (under-16½) hurling championship final at miserable Dungarvan on Saturday.
The CBS grabbed all their eight scores during the first half when they attacked and attacked and attacked because of the huge influence the wind had on play.
Afterwards when facing the elements it was a backs to the wall effort as Midleton charged forward almost relentlessly, but the CBS held out.
And now the city lads have a chance of completing what would be a wonderful junior/senior All-Ireland double when their senior team play St Kieran’s College in the first all Kilkenny final in Nowlan Park on Saturday.
“That wasn’t easy,” said a soaked but much relieved CBS manager, P.J. McCormack afterwards. “We worked very, very hard in the first half. We played a lot of hurling in the second half. Midleton came at us very strongly. We had to stand firm.
“The wind picked up hugely in the second half and we had to fight that too. We are delighted.
“We have a very skilful team, and it has massive heart too. Two years ago when we were under-14½ we were beaten by 15 points or so by virtually every team.
“This year we sat down and said we were going to get ourselves ready for a right lash at Leinster.
“We knew we were good enough. Lads who weren’t hurling two years ago are hurling now. Lads who wanted to give up stayed played. It is a real fairy tale story for us because we literally came from nowhere to win this All-Ireland.
“This is a huge boost for our senior team facing St Kieran’s College next weekend. A lot of the players were here to see this. To see the determination, grit and hard work that paid off in the end should be inspiring to them. The school has a huge, huge task next Saturday, but All-Ireland finals are there to be won.”
The CBS blasted into action, and the lively Bill Sheehan nearly had the ball in the Midleton net after less than 30 seconds but ’keeper, Ross Walsh scrambled the ball away.
The goalie did even better 90 seconds later when bringing off a super save from a pile-driver by Jay Leahy, who was at the end of a lovely move constructed by John McEvoy and Sheehan.
Midleton made good their early escapes, and their first raid earned a nice point for full-forward, Josh Beausang. After the CBS posted an equaliser through Chris Kavanagh, with an assist by Robert Crotty, they proceeded to dominate. Kavanagh, John Quinn, Mark Drennan, Conor Doheny, Crotty and so on took over between the two ‘forties’. Sheehan looked the most dangerous up front. Slowly scores began to flow.
Mark Drennan pointed off his left. Andrew Gaffney landed a free in the 11th minute. Despite the slippy surface and hampering weather, the skills all round shone through. The CBS got the big break they needed in the 23rd minute when Bill Sheehan booted to the Midleton net after a long free from Mark Drennan dropped the sliotar near the square (1-6 to 0-2).
At the break the CBS were slightly better off when 1-7 to 0-2 ahead.
The story of the second half is easily told, but for the players it was torturous, dogged work. Midleton, powered by the deadly Chris Kavanagh at midfield, dominated. They pulled back four points within eight minutes (1-7 to 0-6) to pile on the pressure.
The Noresiders simply dug deep. The more that was asked of them, the more they seemed able to deliver. Four times they struggled up towards the Leesiders goal, but each time their efforts for scores were off. Sean Bolger, Shane Mahony and Robbie O’Driscoll were mighty during a half in which every man expended every breath for the cause.
Scorers: Kilkenny CBS - Bill Sheehan (1-1); Andrew Gaffney (0-2, one free); Chris Kavanagh (0-2, one free); John Quinn, Sean Bolger (0-1 each). Midleton CBS - Garan Manley (0-5, four frees); Brendan McCarthy (0-1, free); Josh Beausang (0-1).
Kilkenny CBS - Eoin Byrne (John Lockes); Robert Crotty (Dicksboro), Shane Mahony (O’Loughlin Gaels), Ciaran Ryan (Dicksboro); Conor Fitzpatrick (Dicksboro), Conor Doheny (Dicksboro), Mark Drennan (Barrow Rangers); Chris Kavanagh (Dicksboro), John Quinn (St Lachtain’s); Andrew Gaffney (Dicksboro), Jay Leahy (O’Loughlin Gaels), John McEvoy (James Stephens); Sean Bolger (O’Loughlin Gaels), Robbie O’Driscoll (O’Loughlin Gaels), Bill Sheehan (Dicksboro). Subs - Declan Wall (James Stephens) for Gaffney (inj) 43rd min; Robbie Murphy (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Quinn 54th min (both used); John Campion (St Lachtain’s), Aaron Malone (Dicksboro), Peter Collins (O’Loughlin Gaels), Conor Flynn (Graigue-Ballycallan), Ronan Buckley (O’Loughlin Gaels), Ross Walsh (St Lachtain’s), Jordan Molloy (O’Loughlin Gaels).
Team officials - P.J. McCormack, Paul O’Donoghue, Alan Healy.
Midleton CBS - R. Walsh; E. Leahy, C. Hegarty, M. Millerick; D. Harrington, S. Smith, S. O’Connor; B. McCarthy, C. Parker; K. Moynihan, J. McDonnell, G. Manley; K. Treacy, J. Beausang, J. Looney. Subs - D. Crotty for Parker 28th min; E. Moloney for Moynihan 47th min; P. O’Brien for Treacy 52nd min.
Referee - Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).