The curse of the final day struck again for unlucky Kilkenny CBS! They endured the pain when beaten in the Leinster final this season after the Gods turned their backs on them.
They felt the torture of a one point lose in the national decider of 2008. And now this!
St Joseph’s CBS from Nenagh were slightly the better team in this All-Ireland colleges’ senior hurling Division A final in Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Saturday. Yet the Noresiders had a serious chance to claim what would have been their second title to go with the stand alone one of 1981.
The losers burst out of the trenches. Within three minutes they had 1-1 without reply on the ’board. For nearly a quarter of an hour Nenagh struggled to find their feet against all action, good hurling opponents, and in the latter part of the half they were forced to abandon their usual, ultra defensive game in which they employ at least seven defenders.
It was in this half rather than at the finish when they pulled the arrears back to a pair of points with a 59th minute goal that the James Street lads missed the boat. Their scoring returns between the 8th and 25th minutes amounted to a single point.
Sadly, they didn’t translate good hurling and a lot of possession into scores during the best of times. Nenagh were actually struggling more than a little until Paudie Fogarty snatched a lovely goal in the 25th minute.
Within two minutes the CBS saw a nice lead of 1-4 to 0-2 turned into what must have been a sickening deficit of 1-4 to 2-3.
Credit to the young braves, they battled back into the game. By the 37th minute the Nenagh advantage was back to the minimum (2-5 to 1-7) but then that man with the golden touch, Jason Forde cracked home another smashing goal from what was no more than a half chance. Subsequently the divide swelled to six points at its greatest, but all the way afterwards the Kilkenny lads were on what was ultimately a failed rescue mission.
“We just never got the breaks,” suggested CBS manager, Seamus Dwyer.
They got one in the 59th minute from which Niall Mullins snatched a goal, but the score came too late to stop Nenagh making history and claiming their first title.
The losers looked great during a sizzling opening. Philip Campion drilled over a lovely point off his left after 90 seconds following a neat clearance from defence by Robbie Fitzpatrick. In the third minute Shane Cuddihy fired in a shot from 50 metres on the right, and with the ’keeper apparently in two minds as to whether to attempt a save or turn the ball over the bar, the sliotar fell into the net.
Nenagh were all at sea. James Mackey pulled back a minor, but that drew two good responses from Eoin Fennelly and Mason Clifford, with an assist by Fennelly, to up the losers lead to 1-3 to 0-1.
On the back foot
For the entire quarter Nenagh were on the back foot, unable to cope with the driving play of powerful midfielder, Jack Langton, Mason Clifford at full-forward, Owen McGrath, Shane Cassin, Eoin Fennelly, Darragh Sheehan, Robbie Fitzpatrick and company. Everything looked good about the losers play. They were out-working the opposition; they looked secure in defence, but they weren’t scoring enough.
Jack Flaherty had Nenagh’s second point in the 13th minute. Clifford dashed off the edge of the square to take a lovely delivery from Langton before posting a top class point (1-4 to 0-2).
Nenagh were feeling the heat. They reverted to the orthodox 15 versus 15 game, which in essence was their Plan B, although they continued to play their well rehearsed short passing game.
Yet, it was from a direct, long ball out of defence by Forde in the 25th minute that they grabbed a lifeline back into the game. From his angled delivery the ball broke to the left of the town end goal. Paudie Fogarty, playing at full-forward, planted the ball in the net from 18 metres. In real terms, this was the turning point.
Less than two minutes on Stephen O’Brien shot a top rate point on the turn. Within seconds Forde had the ball in the net again, this time after a drive from Jack Peters teed up the score.
When half-time was reached Nenagh led by 2-5 to 1-5. The 2-1 blast during that disastrous two minutes spell for the CBS turned the match on its heads.
Credit to the Noresiders they again blasted into action from the start of the new half. Kevin Kenny and Mason Clifford pulled back early points. Then up popped Forde again! This time Tadgh Gallagher put the ball inside the last line of the Kilkenny defence. The team skipper still had a lot of work to do from 20-metres range on the left.
He found the target. Kilkenny were 1-7 to 3-5 behind.
Nenagh, it has to be said, missed a couple more chances during the quarter to, if not clinch the deal, at least leave the opposition well behind. The losers chased really hard, with Owen McGrath and Langton driving them on. Back-to-back scores from McGrath had them within striking distance in the 51st minute (3-8 to 1-11).
Within seconds Stephen O’Brien touched over a lovely point from the edge of the square when he got to the end of a huge sideline cut by Forde. Killian Gleeson added a like score for good measure.
Two minutes left and five points down the Kilkenny lads were still chasing. The game reached the last minute. The Cats won a sideline cut on the right, and 20 metres distance from goal. Mason Clifford drilled the ball across the goal. Lurking at the far side of the small square was defender, Niall Mullins. He made a clean catch, and got in a cleaner strike. Goal!
Alas, it was too little too late. Forde, Donnacha Quinn, Sean Geaney, Stephen O’Brien, James Mackey, Killian Gleeson and company had done enough. It was Nenagh’s day of glory!
Scorers: St Joseph’s CBS – Jason Forde (2-2, points frees); James Mackey (0-3); Paudie Fogarty (1-0); Killian Gleeson, Stephen O’Brien (0-2 each); Sean Geaney (0-1). Kilkenny CBS – Mason Clifford (0-4); Niall Mullins, Shane Cuddihy (1-0 each); Owen McGrath (0-3, frees); Kevin Kenny, Eoin Fennelly, Philip Campion, Robbie Buckley (0-1 each).
Kilkenny CBS – Darragh Houlihan (Dicksboro); Shane Cassin (Clara), Evan Cody (Dicksboro), Cathal McGrath (John Lockes); Niall Mullins (James Stephens), Owen McGrath (John Lockes), Robbie Fitzpatrick (Dicksboro); Darragh Sheehan (Danesfort), Jack Langton, capt (Clara); Kevin Kenny (Dicksboro), Mason Clifford (Dicksboro), Eoin Fennelly (Dicksboro); Shane Cuddihy (Tullaroan), Ciaran Doyle (Barrow Rangers), Philip Campion (St Lachtain’s). Subs – Luke Scanlon (James Stephens) for Campion 40th min; Danny Bolger (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Sheehan 45th min; Robbie Buckley (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Cuddihy 45th min; Paul Delahanty (Young Irelands) for E. Fennelly 57th min.
St Joseph’s CBS – W. Power, S. Cleary, K. Gubbins, D. Quinn, E. Hynes, J. Peters, J. Flaherty, J. Loughnane, S. Geaney, T. Gallagher, J. Forde, S. O’Brien, K. Gleeson, P. Fogarty, J. Mackey. Subs – D. Peters for Quinn 51st min; C. Delaney for Geaney 58th min.
Referee – C. McAlister (Cork).
Attendance - 1,856.