Ever improving St Kieran’s College showed quality and a terrific battling spirit when getting the better of Colaiste Eoin (Dublin) in a nerve testing Leinster colleges Roinn A senior hurling league semi-final, writes Michael Ryan.
Victory earned St Kieran’s a mouth-watering clash with defending champions and fierce city rivals, Kilkenny CBS in the decider in Nowlan Park this afternoon (Thursday).
This rip roaring semi-final was played in cold, blustery conditions in the Ballykelly GAA club grounds but the weather did not prevent the players from producing an enthralling clash.
St Kieran’s College were the more economical team in terms of using possession during the first half. They capitalised on the few chances that were presented to them by a tightly knit opposing defence. In contrast, Coláiste Eoin were wasteful, which hurt them in the end as they had aid of the stiff breeze.
The Dubliners had problems with their shooting from the off and they had three wides registered before Kieran’s punished them. Robbie Donnelly pointed a free for lift off in what turned out to be a high scoring affair.
This was followed by additional points from classy centre-forward, James Maher, Billy Ryan and Donnelly again while Coláiste Eoin helped themselves to two minors in response.
Hanlon a star
The St Kieran’s defence, led admirably by towering centre-back, Billy Hanlon stood firm and was particularly effective playing against the elements, making the ever threatening Coláiste Eoin forward division work hard for whatever gains they made.
The winners defence coped well, and looked particularly comfortably when defending high ball.
Kilkenny county minor player, James Maher was on top of his game and was in a class of his own in the first half. He created numerous chances with his lightning speed and accurate touch, and he also helping himself to three points.
Maher’s points countered frees from the Irish speaking Coláiste Eoin side until the Dubs corner-forward latched on to a loose ball and raced towards goal. His shot was parried by St Kieran’s goalkeeper, Gavin Costigan before the rebounded was crashed to the net for the first goal of the game.
This good score left the half time score at 0-8 to 1-8 in favour of high flying Coláiste Eoin.
St Kieran’s College, who are well travelled in colleges hurling, did not panic, however. They had cancelled the Coláiste Eoin lead before 10 minutes of the new half had elapsed following a spectacular point from the sideline by Josh Haines along with additional points from sharpshooters Donnelly and Maher.
The Dublin outfit were not rattled by this barrage of scores. They kept charging forward. They knocked over two more points before their ’keeper rifled a bullet-like shot from a penalty to the back of the net.
This big score left the Kieran’s side four points down with 16 minutes remaining in the game. The Noresiders were facing the exit door unless they came up with something big.
The winners did come up with a huge response when the challenge was put to them. For Colaise Eoin that last batch of scores was the end of their purple patch. They were kept on a tight rein afterwards and they managed only one more point during the remainder of the game.
St Kieran’s simply took control, and bolted the door against the opposition. Super sub Brian Cody led the charge to victory for the Kilkenny lads.
St Kieran’s pointed twice before they had a series of points from inspirational free taker, Donnelly to carve out a
thrilling victory by the smallest of margins.
Overall, St Kieran’s will be pleased with the performance. They registered a mere five wides and withstood constant pressure against the breeze, which were huge positives to take into the League final.
However, they will be all too aware that they will have to raise their performance level another notch or two to get
the better of their old rivals, who headed their group on the other side of the draw.