It’s champs against champs in historic All-Ireland showdown

Kilkenny CBS management team, Matthew Ruth, Niall Tyrrell and Ger Morrissey.  (Photo: Eoin Hennessy)
This is like upper end Champions League stuff, involving the creme de la creme of sport at under-age level in Ireland.

This is like upper end Champions League stuff, involving the creme de la creme of sport at under-age level in Ireland.

Leinster champions Kilkenny CBS face league champions St Kieran’s College, with the winners being crowned champions of all Ireland.

It is a fascinating situation on so many levels, not least being that the final will be an history making occasion as it is the first time two teams from the same county battled it out for the ultimate honours. And the competition has a history stretching back 70 years.

City schools St Kieran’s College and Kilkenny CBS have forged a keen and deadly rivalry at all levels in sport down through the decades.

Never were the odds so high as they will be in the Masita GAA All-Ireland post primary schools senior hurling championship final in Nowlan Park on Saturday (5pm).

This is a winners take all situation in a season dominated by the brilliance of both schools. The Leinster League and Championship titles were divided.

The CBS won the Leinster championship final only a few weeks ago. Before Christmas St Kieran’s had their day of celebration in the Leinster League final.

Curiously, the winners each day looked pretty convincing. Kieran’s looked very good, big, strong and powerful in all the key areas of the field, when they raced to victory in the League decider.

Equally, the finely-tuned and utterly determined CBS looked the business when claiming what was their eight provincial Championship victory.

Ever-improving

Since, Kieran’s have beaten St Brigid’s Loughrea in the All-Ireland quarter-final, and the ever-improving pair saw off the best from Munster in the two All-Ireland semi-finals.

Now this - the decider.

St Kieran’s are well versed in the ways of life at this high level. They head the All-Ireland championship roll of honour with a staggering 18 wins. Throw in 52 Leinster championship successes, and you see their history is liberally decorated with the rosettes of champions.

The CBS haul is more modest, but recognition must be given to the strong entries they have made on the records in recent times.

Their lone All-Ireland success of 1981 stands out. However, appearances in seven of the last nine Leinster finals is evidence of important developments in the James Street school that must be recognised and lauded.

Also, Saturday’s final is the third consecutive appearance in the decider by Kilkenny CBS. On top of that, they won the junior All-Ireland title at the weekend.

Do all those facts matter? They do to some degree.

Tradition has armed St Kieran’s with a belief that is no burden. They know how to win All-Irelands. They have won them every way; as a dominant force; ground them out. They have nicked a few as well. Their semi-final win was typical.

Opponents Ardscoil Ris (Limerick) had a team with the players right up to the age limit. They were, it appeared, set for success, until....

When players, any player, be they current exponents Daren Mullen, Jason Cleere, Tommy Walsh, Liam and Kevin Blanchfield, Tadgh O’Dwyer or whoever pull on that black and white jersey in the championship they know it carries a responsibility. They have a tradition to maintain.

The back-up expertise in the school helps polish and develop talent like in a true academy.

The CBS vowed after last year’s defeat against Dungarvan Colleges that they would be back. That was a challenging personal statement, bearing in mind they had been beaten in the final of 2012 by Nenagh CBS as well. Back they are, however, and with a very well prepared, finely tuned side.

They inflicted the only defeat of the season on Kieran’s. Cathal McGrath, Evan Cody, Niall Mullins, J.P. Treacy, Andrew Gaffney, Paddy Deegan, Robbie Buckley and company are not looking back. They want to write their own piece of history.

The League final was one type of game. The Leinster final was different, shaped, some would suggest, by late injuries to some of the Kieran’s players. Kieran’s looked flat. The CBS were jumping out of their skins.

Saturday will be different again. Both have learned a lot over the last month. Both have blossomed. Scoring back-to-back wins over Kieran’s won’t be easy for the CBS.