The momentum that has driven Kilkenny CBS on this year kicked up another notch as they marched into the All-Ireland final.
The James’s Street side have been on a quest to lift the Croke Cup for some time, and showed they still mean business with an impressive handling of Limerick’s Doon in Saturday’s semi-final.
There was something very impressive in the way the city side went about their business on Saturday. Right from the off they showed a steely coolness to their game as they swiftly took control and never relinquished it.
“Games are funny the way they unfold, but when things get tough you want your leaders to stand up,” said CBS selector Ger Morrissey.
“They played within themselves a little, but still scored 2-9 on a heavy pitch in March.”
Much of the CBS’s march to victory came in the way that they never allowed their rivals to settle into any kind of rhythm
“Doon were a bit of an unknown quantity, but we knew they’d be tenacious,” Morrissey said. “After going in five points in front at half-time it was a case of sticking at it and getting the first score or two (of the second half). After that they were never going to catch us.”
The winners gave the impressed that if needed they could have stepped up a gear or two
“I hope so,” the selector smiled. “We’re probably going to need it in the All-Ireland final!”
He has had a major say in games thanks to his free-taking and point-scoring, but it was Andrew Gaffney’s two early goals that played a big part in the Kilkenny side fashioning a lead they would never lose.
Although Doon picked off the opening point inside 30 seconds their confidence suffered an almost instant setback.
Right from the puck-out, Gaffney won possession on the Limerick side’s 45 and set off for the posts, pausing only to rifle the sliotar past netminder Shane Stapleton.
With Luke Scanlon tacking on another point the CBS were intent on making a fast start, and took a tighter grip on the game when Gaffney plundered his second goal with just 12 minutes on the clock.
Showing their speed and strength, within seconds the CBS worked the ball from one end of the field to the other. Sparked by Gary Bryan’s clearance J.P. Treacy, who anchored midfield, supplied a clever ball to Robbie Buckley.
With the Doon defence chasing shadows, Buckley delivered a pin-point cross for Buckley to race in and collect, who cut into the centre before picking his spot in the net.
Doon were shell-shocked by that Gaffney brace, but were fortunate not to concede even more. Robbie Buckley, Luke Scanlon and Gaffney all had chances to raise even more green flags - the latter after a searing move involving Evan Cody, J.P. Treacy and Lawlor - but Darren Roche made a brave block to keep his side in the game.
At the other end Colin Ryan was doing his bit for the Limerick side’s cause, posting three more points, but they were no match for the CBS.
Treacy rattled off a neat point, snapping up a low ball on the right sideline before splitting the scoreboard end posts. With Huw Lawlor finishing the scoring, it was a confident CBS who marched in with a five-point cushion at the interval (2-3 to 0-4).
Even though they were now facing into the breeze there was no stopping the leaders. Buckley and Gaffney (free) proved as much, shooting two quick points to stretch their lead.
They didn’t know it at that stage, but Doon would never get a look-in after that. Even though Colin Ryan kept his side going on the scoring front, the key was that every time he struck the CBS hit back.
They maintained a firm grip on the game, the half-back line of Gary Bryan, Evan Cody and Paddy Deegan practically drawing a line on the pitch and refusing to let Doon pass.
As for their attack, the CBS showed they could step on the gas when needed. They showed as much when Robbie Buckley grabbed the score of the game in the 41st minute, adding the finishing touch to a slick one-two with Gaffney.
To their credit Doon never gave in, but there was no way they could deny the CBS their reward of a place in an All-Kilkenny final against their old rivals St Kieran’s.
“It’s great for the county,” said Morrissey. “It shows the strength of hurling in our area.
“It’s tribalism,” he said of the CBS-Kieran’s battles. “There’s a real rivalry there between the sides which is fantastic. Our boys wanted to get to the final and they’re delighted.”
Morrissey was quick to pay tribute to the players, many of whom have chased the All-Ireland dream over the last few years.
“Some of those lads have been on the road with this team since they were in Transition Year, guys like J.P. Treacy, Paddy Deegan, Evan Cody, Darragh Holohan.
“They’re experienced now but they haven’t got that Croke Cup medal in their collection,” he finished. “That’s what they’re looking for.”
SCORERS: Kilkenny CBS - Andrew Gaffney (2-2, 0-2 frees); J.P. Treacy (0-2, 0-1 free); Robbie Buckley (0-2); Luke Scanlon, Huw Lawlor, Matthew McWey (0-1 each). Doon - Colin Ryan (0-9, 0-8 frees), Dean Coleman (0-1).
Kilkenny CBS - Darragh Holohan (Dicksboro), Kevin Galvin (Clara), Cathal McGrath (John Lockes), Conor Doheny (Dicksboro), Gary Bryan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Evan Cody (Dicksboro), Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Niall Mullins (James Stephens), J.P. Treacy (Young Irelands), Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels), Luke Scanlon (James Stephens), Andrew Gaffney (Dicksboro), Robbie Buckley (O’Loughlin Gaels), James Byrne (James Stephens), Robbie Murphy (Dicksboro). Subs: James Lenehan (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Murphy, 30 mins; Danny Bolger (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Cody, 44 mins; Matthew McWey (James Stephens) for Lawlor, 53 mins.
Scoil na Tríonóide Naofa Doon - Shane Stapleton, Brian McPartland, Thomas Hayes, Darren Roche, Brian McCarthy, Stephen Ryan, Shane O’Connell, Mike Dee, Patrick Cummins, Colin Ryan, Barry Murphy, David Buckley, Joe Lonergan, Dean Coleman, Mark Coleman. Subs: Adam Coleman for M. Coleman, 47 mins; Matt Feehan for S. Ryan (inj), 60 mins.
Referee - Christopher Browne (Galway).