A solid display saw St Kieran’s College keep up their winning ways, but the performance brought more reward than just victory.
Pushed hard by a stubborn Good Counsel, the Saints showed they could dig deep to maintain their 100% record in the senior hurling league.
Backed by strong South Kilkenny contingent - a group which included minor county champions Pat Lyng, Shane Ryan, Darragh Joyce and Cathal Bolger from the Rower-Inistioge, Glenmore’s Liam Hennessy and Tullogher’s Donnacha O’Connor - the fast-moving Counsel were a tough nut to crack.
One major part in the Kieran’s win was their neat run of 1-5 in the second half, a scoring burst which helped them take control. However, their work ethic over the 60 minutes was just as important.
Much of the good play that Kieran’s achieved came from a defence which imposed itself on the game.
While the likes of Eoin and Tommy Walsh and Billy Hanlon were to the fore in the backline they also had strong performances from midfielders Kevin Blanchfield and Jason Byrne, with the half-forward line of Liam Blanchfield, Sean Morrissey and Tadhg O’Dwyer doing their bit to keep the Counsel backs busy.
Although they went in front early on through Kevin Blanchfield (0-2) and Robbie Donnelly Kieran’s found themselves on level terms after the first quarter, Cian O’Donoghue (two frees) and the marauding Pat Lyng driving back as the Wexford school found their feet.
Good Counsel did better than level the game; by the 23rd minute they had edged their way in front (0-7 to 0-5) with the impressive Michael Dwyer bagging a brace of points, but they were left standing still when Kieran’s stepped up the pace.
Rising to the challenge, the Saints clicked into gear. Billy Ryan teed up Tadhg O’Dwyer, who twisted and turned past his marker to notch up a point. The scorer then turned provider, winning a high ball and releasing it to Sean Morrissey, who split the posts with a stylish long range score.
O’Dwyer and Morrissey kept up their hard work, battling for another score each. Better was to follow for Morrissey, who was perfectly placed to gather Billy Ryan’s pass and drill it into the bottom right corner of the net.
Leaking 1-4 in four minutes would have sunk some teams, but not Good Counsel. Cathal Bolger hit the perfect reply, racing in to flash a loose ball to the net after John Walsh’s looping ball hadn’t been cleared.
With Walsh adding a point the New Ross school ended the half on a high, but they still trailed at the break (1-9 to 1-8).
The slender gap was closed within seconds of the restart, as Cian O’Donoghue converted a free he had won - but that was as good as the afternoon got for Counsel.
Just like the first half, once Kieran’s increased the intensity there was no catching them.
This time they reeled off five unanswered points Sean Morrissey (0-2) profiting from the sterling work of Liam Blanchfield and Billy Ryan.
Robbie Donnelly also tacked on a brace, then delivered the killer blow when he deftly flicked Tadhg O’Dwyer’s dipping 40th minute delivery past the advancing netminder Kevin Doyle, the goal coming after some fine link-up play involving half-back line Darren Mullen, Jason Cleere and Billy Hanlon.
Good Counsel were rocked by that goal. They did pull a major score back when Michael Dwyer rattled the net on 45 minutes but the combination of other missed chances - Dwyer saw two more close range shots sear the outside of the posts - and a hard-working black and white defensive wall meant they couldn’t catch Kieran’s, who finished on a high when Tadhg O’Dwyer volleyed in Brian Cody’s hand-pass on the stroke of full-time.
St Kieran’s College - Gavin Costigan, Shane Walsh, Eoin Walsh, Tommy Walsh, Darren Mullen, Billy Hanlon, Jason Cleere, Kevin Blanchfield (0-2), Jason Byrne (0-1), Liam Blanchfield (0-1), Sean Morrissey (1-4), Tadhg O’Dwyer (1-2), Billy Ryan, Brian Cody, Robbie Donnelly (1-7, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65). Subs: Josh Haines (0-1), Conor Browne, Ray Lahart, Jack Keoghan, Bill Carrigan.
Good Counsel - Kevin Doyle, Brian Quigley, Sean Stafford, Shane Ryan, Pat Lyng (0-1), Darragh Joyce, Donnacha O’Connor, John Walsh (0-1), Sean Ryan, Cian O’Donoghue (0-4, frees), Liam Hennessy, Daire Barden, Pierce Doyle, Cathal Bolger (1-3), Michael Dwyer (1-2). Subs: Liam Fennelly, Ian Carty, William Treacy.
Referee - Eamon Mansfield (Kilkenny).