INCONSISTENCY was possibly St Kieran’s College best friend in Johnstown on Saturday, writes John Knox.
The Kilkenny lads looked well capable of dealing with the best Our Lady’s College, Templemore had to offer, but because of their up and down form, Kieran’s allowed what might have been a handy enough challenge to become an awkward one. Kieran’s won by 4-11 to 2-8.
And therein lies the main benefit to be had for the multi-honoured Kilkenny school as they prepare for another All-Ireland colleges senior hurling semi-final on Saturday against Dungarvan Colleges.
The main lesson from this quarter-final for St Kieran’s was - never relax, no matter how well you might think you are performing.
“We had a bit of a dip at the start of the second half,” admitted St Kieran’s team official, Ger Flood. “We had a bit of a lead going into the half and the team become a bit complacent.
“We realised what was going on and we got ourselves out of trouble.”
The injuries continue to mount for Kieran’s. Goal scorer Paddy Mullen was helped off the pitch at the finish with a rib injury. It is hoped he will be fit for the semi-final. They lost neat attacker, Simon Rafter with a broken finger – he had an operation last week – and Michael O’Neill (broken collar bone) in the Leinster final.
“We are a bit stretched, but we have a big panel and we are seeing the benefit of that now,” Mr Flood added. “We got the result we wanted from this game, and while the semi-final will be a big challenge, it will also be a big opportunity for us.”
Hurling was smashing
In a sporting week during which Cheltenham and betting dominated, only a fool would have backed on anything other than a big St Kieran’s victory at half-time.
After all, they led by a handsome 3-7 to 0-3 at the break. Their hurling in defence was smashing, and up front they picked off the goal chances when they came along. On top of that, the discipline of the entire team was top class, with a mere four foul committed during the half hour.
After the turn that all changed. Our Lady’s, driven on by Tipperary minor, John McGrath, who was ably backed by good hurlers, Colin O’Riordan and Brian Kennedy, were allowed back into the match as the opposition lost their shape, and a bit of discipline.
Three frees alone were conceded within seven minutes of the restart, which by St Kieran’s standard on the day, was a lot. McGrath pointed all three from long range and with a 39th minute goal from Dean McEntee, who was allowed too much room to get a free run at the defence, the arrears were cut back to 1-6 to 3-7.
While St Kieran’s weren’t in deadly danger, they were uncomfortable and the game was out of their control. Eventually they snatched a badly needed point through Vincent Teehan in the 43rd minute, with Liam Blanchfield and Mullen doing great work to create the opening.
Although Our Lady’s hit a quick reply through McGrath, following a foul on Bill O’Connell, they were nailed during the minutes that followed. First Mullin was pushed to the ground and he converted the free. Then he bagged a goal after James Deasy and Vincent Teehan worked to break open the losers defence.
With a lead of 4-9 to 1-7 with 11 minutes remaining, St Kieran’s were back on track and semi-final bound.
The winners hurling during the first half was hugely impressive, with new centre-back Eoin Gough moving very well, along with Chris Bolger – he retired injured at the break – Sean Morrissey, Shane Parsons, Stephen Farrell, James Maher and Vincent Teehan.
Bolger sent them on their scoring way when he cracked home a lovely goal in the fourth minute after being put clear on the right wing by Maher to charge at the target before shooting home a dipping shot from 20 metres.
The gap exploded after an exciting scoring blast from Kieran’s between the 12th and 15th minutes. The divide started at 1-1 to 0-2. It suddenly shot up to 2-4 to 0-3.
The scoring damage was done by Parsons, a huge point from the right half back position, James Maher (point), Vincent Teehan (goal) and Maher (point) again.
Three minutes further on there was more bad news for Our Lady’s. This time Michael Kenny got on the goal scoring sheet, finishing smartly after fielding a right wing cross from Teehan. The execution was simple, yet terrific in terms of value.
That score put St Kieran’s on their way to a half-time lead of 3-7 to 0-3.
The third quarter belonged to Our Lady’s. The reason for that will provide food for thought for St Kieran’s. Working it out should provide inspiration for the next challenge!
Scorers: St Kieran’s College - Chris Bolger (1-2, 01 free); Vincent Teehan (1-2); Patrick Mullen (1-1, 0-1 free); James Maher (0-3); Michael Kenny (1-0); Shane Parsons, James Deasy, Stephen Farrell (0-1 each). Our Lady’s College – Thomas Nolan (1-3); John McGrath (0-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65); Dean McEntee (1-0).
St Kieran’s College – Graham English (Barrow Rangers), Sean Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), James Tyrrell (James Stephens), Ciaran Breen (Barrow Rangers), Shane Parsons (O’Loughlin Gaels), Eoin Gough (Dicksboro), Eoin Walsh (Lisdowney), Chris Bolger (Clara), Stephen Farrell (Young Irelands), Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), James Maher (St Lachtain’s), Patrick Hickey (Danesfort), Michael Kenny (Lisdowney), Vincent Teehan (Graigue-Ballycallan), James Deasy (Ballyhale Shamrocks). Subs: Patrick Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks) for Bolger; Josh Haines (John Lockes) for Hickey; Luke Tennyson (Rower-Inistioge) for Parsons; Jason Cleere (Bennettsbridge) for Breen; Kieran Freeman (Durrow Harps) for Mullen (inj).
Our Lady’s College – S. P. Guerins, D. Brereton, J. Ryan, J. Bergin, P. Horan, B. Kennedy, M. Campion, C. O’Riordan, J. McGrath, T. Nolan, D. Carey, D. McEntee, B. O’Connell, J.J. Ryan, T. Maher. Subs: E. Moloney for P. Horan; J. Fogarty for Brereton; K. Ahern for T. Maher; J. Dowling for O’Riordan.
Referee - C McAllister (Cork).