When it comes to scouting the opposition for a big final, writes Trevor Spillane, nobody could have come closer to running the rule over their rivals than the boys from Kilkenny CBS!
“It’s unbelievable how two Kilkenny schools who are only about 200 yards apart can end up in an All-Ireland final,” CBS team manager Niall Tyrrell said in the build-up to Saturday’s Croke Cup decider.
“It goes to show the work that’s being done in the city and the county at under-age level,” he added. “When these lads come into us in September there’s no work needed in terms of fitness or sharpness; the work’s that being done in the clubs is incredible. We’re just guiding them along, trying to find our best 15.”
Finding their best side has brought rich yields for the CBS, who have been in high spirits all year.
“Everyone is in good form ahead of the final,” said Tyrrell. “We are carrying a few knocks from the semi-final (against Limerick’s Doon) but Evan Cody (hamstring) is our only doubt. He got through about 50 minutes of the Leinster final, but we took him off just after half-time in the All-Ireland semi-final. He’s getting treatment, but it’s 50/50 at best for him.”
The Cody injury seems to be the only blip on the radar for a battle-hardened CBS side.
“They’re an honest side who have put in the work and earned their rewards over the last few years,” said Tyrrell. “This team has won a Leinster junior and two Leinster senior championships. It would be lovely to see them cap that with an All-Ireland title. If they were to win it, it would be no more than they deserve.”
Getting their hands on the trophy would also erase the memories of successive losses in 2012 and 2013, but those defeats don’t hang as heavily on the shoulders of the players as you might think.
“It’s the third final in a row for the school, but with such a turnover of pupils there will be seven or eight players taking to the field on Saturday who have never played in an All-Ireland final before,” explained Tyrrell. “They don’t know what it’s like to lose one, so they’ll look at things a little differently.
“However, losing two All-Irelands in a row was difficult to take,” he said. “For some of the lads this weekend will be their third attempt to win the Croke Cup.”
Making it to a third final in a row proves there is great resilience in the side.
“This team has lost two games in the last three years - they must be doing something right,” he said. “They’re a resilient team and a very proud bunch. Hopefully the lads with the experience of playing in those two finals will find it stands to them on Saturday.”
The CBS have looked a polished side all year, but it is those past performances which have led the way.
“The lads feel that they let themselves down in last year’s All-Ireland final,” Tyrrell explained. “They went out and the game passed them by.
“At the start of the year we had a chat about last year’s final, identified where things went wrong. We were too uptight and, as a result, the lads didn’t let themselves hurl on the day. They’ve learned from that and are showing it now - when they go out and play they feel they are in control of everything they are doing.”
That coolness brought its reward with a Leinster title won against Kieran’s. Having played them twice already the series is tied at one win apiece, but neither school will be looking at past results. Saturday is a brand new game.
“At the start of the year I said that if we were to play St Kieran’s it would be a 50/50 game,” said Tyrrell. “We’re thrilled to have won the Leinster final, but it will very hard to beat the same team twice in a month. If we can win Saturday’s game it will be special.”