St Kieran’s College...4-17
St Brendan’s CS0-9
SCORERS: St Kieran’s College – Michael Kenny, Chris Bolger (1-3 each); Paddy Mullen (1-2); Eoin Gough (0-5, 0-2 frees, 0-2 65); Liam Blanchfield (1-0); Simon Rafter (0-2); Vincent Teehan, Stephen Farrell (0-1 each).
St Brendan’s CS – Keith Bergin (0-3, 0-1 free, 0-1 65); Conor Freeman (0-2); Brian Hogan (0-1, free); Shane Ryan, Conor Doughan, Padraig Guinan (0-1 each).
WHAT better way to start the defence of your crown than by sending out a clear warning to your title rivals?
St Kieran’s College did that and more, speeding to success as they opened their Leinster senior colleges Roinn A hurling campaign in style.
Over the hour of play, the Kilkenny school ground down their opponents St Brendan’s of Birr.
They had some testing moments in Ratheniska on Saturday, not least in the early stages, but in the end, they blitzed Birr with a second half scoring display that was seriously impressive.
Four points up by the interval (1-7 to 0-6), Kieran’s weren’t content to sit on that advantage.
Within seconds of the restart, Eoin Gough added a 65, before Birr netminder Brian Hogan – son of former Tipp keeper Ken Hogan – had to look lively to stop Simon Rafter’s close range kick at goal.
As their forwards began to get into rhythm Kieran’s increased the pace. Michael Kenny tacked on a good point, then set up Paddy Mullen to split the posts.
Birr did shave a point off the gap, thanks to Conor Freeman’s effort, but they had no answer to a stylish comeback from the Kilkenny school.
Full-forward Stephen Farrell came out to the right flank in search of possession and turned it into a shot at the posts.
The sliotar dipped at the last, seemingly towards the grasp of Hogan, but from out of nowhere, Mullen nipped in from the left to cleverly flick the ball inside the near post.
Birr were rattled by that goal, but didn’t have time to catch their breath.
With Gough adding another free, the Offaly school were now 10 points down after just nine second half minutes (2-11 to 0-7).
Brendan’s had been anything but quiet in the opening stages of the first half, having taken the game to Kieran’s.
Played on a sticky pitch, they pegged the Kilkenny side back in their own half for spells, much of that down to some booming puck-outs from ’keeper Hogan.
After eight minutes of tough hurling, the Birr side were ahead (0-3 to 0-1), Shane Ryan and Conor Doughan doing well to win possession inside the Kieran’s 45 and turn it into scores.
Kieran’s were faced with a challenge, but they met it head-on. Forwards Eoin Gough and Stephen Farrell led the way with points, both scoring after some solid work by Simon Rafter, to help lift the siege.
The sides stayed in close contention after that, but the Kieran’s attacking threat was growing.
Gough converted a 65, but only after Hogan had to go full stretch to push a Farrell shot to safety on 14 minutes.
Rafter got in on the act, picking up possession from a cluster of players and turning it into a point, while Paddy Mullen added another, scoring after Chris Bolger showed excellent vision to pick out his colleague with a zippy crossfield ball. Kieran’s were two points clear now, but the advantage didn’t last long.
Two more aerial bombs – a Hogan free from his own 65 and a Keith Bergin 65 – had Brendan’s level again by the 20th minute.
It seemed as if that tight battle would continue until half-time, but it wasn’t to be for Birr.
James Maher showed the determination coursing through Kieran’s when he won possession and burst forward, pausing only to provide Bolger with the ammunition to strike a 25th minute point.
The Kilkenny side had great joy from the running game and used it to devastating effect in the dying seconds of normal time.
Winning possession in midfield, Liam Blanchfield picked the sliotar out of the sky and took off.
Breaking from the centre, Blanchfield burst past the Birr backs and delivered the killer blow, driving a looping shot over Hogan and into the top right corner of the net.
That was a crushing blow for Brendan’s who, after all their hard work, found themselves four down at the interval (1-7 to 0-6).
The second half didn’t get any better for the Birr men. Ten points down by the 39th minute, they added just a brace of scores from there to the finish.
Kieran’s didn’t have such problems. Instead, they trained their sights on the posts and showed no mercy.
The champions were awesome, posting an unanswered 2-5 in the final quarter.
Their run was started with two goals in three minutes, the first from Michael Kenny’s instinctive pull before Chris Bolger’s close range strike found the net.
Further points from Rafter, Bolger, Gough and Kenny (2), saw the rampant champions finish on a real high and set up a semi-final with Castlecomer CS.
St Kieran’s College – G. English, S. Morrissey, J. Tyrrell, C. Breen, E. Walsh, J. Maher, L. Tennyson, C. Bolger, L. Blanchfield, V. Teehan, E. Gough, P. Mullen, S. Rafter, S. Farrell, M. Kenny. Subs: P. Hickey for Teehan, 47 mins; P. White for Breen, 51 mins; J. Deasy for Rafter, 51 mins; M. O’Neill for Bolger, 52 mins; G. Kennedy for Mullen, 58 mins.
St Brendan’s CS – B. Hogan, S. Feenane, C. Taylor, N. Bergin, B. Donnelly, E. Nolan, B. Loughnane, P. Guinan, S. Dunne, C. Freeman, C. Doughan, J. Carroll, S. Ryan, J. Regan, K. Bergin. Subs: J. Hardiman for J. Regan, 26 mins; E. Parlon for Feenane, 50 mins; O. Regan for Carroll, 52 mins; P. Horan for Ryan, 55 mins; R. O’Donoghue for Loughnane, 59 mins.
Referee – B. O’Reilly (Laois).