The outcome was important, of course it was, but St Kieran’s College and Kilkenny CBS have their eyes on bigger prizes in the New Year.
The message from both camps was typical Kilkenny after a well contested, high class Leinster Post Primary schools Roinn A hurling league final in Nowlan Park.
The line was more or less: “The defining hurling will be played in 2014”.
Neither victors nor vanquished made any secret of the fact that they mean business in the Leinster championship, and what might lie beyond. Both reckoned they were not too bad. They reckoned they had fair potential, and with a modicum of luck, they could be contenders.
It was almost a by the way that the Leinster league title changed hands, moving residence from James Street to the College Road. The hurling, or method employed by both sides, was interesting from a broader Kilkenny point of view.
Absent was a preference for driving the ball long every time. There was more method, a much finer mixture, with both teams good at employing the possession game and having an address attached to every delivery from defence. Good coaching shone through!
Oh, by the way, the schools had 72 players listed on the programme - 38 by the CBS - which would suggest they have deep panels and that interest among players was considerable.
The CBS opened backed by the wind playing into the country end. They conceded the first point to Liam Blanchfield, the end produced of a flowing move and clever cross field pass by Bennettsbridge clubmate Sean Morrissey. If that was a nice score, the second one was even better.
It was a goal from Luke Scanlon, who played at senior level with James Stephens this season. He fielded a high delivery from midfield by Corey Cahill near the ‘20’ before making a shooting angle on the left and drilling a well aimed dipping shot into the bottom far corner of the net. Lovely stuff!
Kieran’s free taker, Conor Murphy, who had No. 29 on his back, was the scoring ace who kept Kieran’s in touch as he weighed in with six scores before the 25th minute (1-7 to 0-8). A minute later a lovely move that was typical of the match earned the winners the lead they were never to surrender.
They worked ball from defence in a fast and accurate move that saw a pop pass from Murphy give corner-forward, Billy Ryan a run on the CBS last line of defence. Goalie Daragh Holohan spotted the danger and darted off his line. Neither guardian nor attacker gave an inch. Both put themselves in line for a big hit in the unavoidable heavy collision. Ryan clipped the ball into the net.
That score helped Kieran’s into a 1-9 to 1-7 lead at half-time. Murphy was their big man in terms of individual scores (7) during the half, but the hurling of Sean Morrissey, Liam and Kevin Blanchfield, James Mahe, Darren Mullen and Bill Hanlon was powerful too.
The winners started the new half with Hanlon opening up the whole pitch by spraying a pass from the left wing back position to the opposite wing forward slot, where Liam Blanchfield was fouled on a run. Murphy converted. The advantage hit the highest point in the 48th minute when another foul on Blanchfield gave Murphy a handy chance. He took it. The score was 1-14 to 1-10.
The CBS were under a bit of pressure, but with Paddy Deegan playing some fantastic hurling at centre-back they dragged their best game back together again. Deegan had able lieutenants in J.P. Treacy, Andrew Gaffney, Luke Scanlon, Cathal McGrath and Robbie Murphy, who didn’t always enjoy the luck his keen touch deserved.
A pointed free by Gaffney, after a foul on Scanlon, was the reply after back-to-back minors from the opposition. When the same player landed another pair it was suddenly game on again (1-14 to 1-13). Five minutes remained!
The rising CBS challenge drew the best out of a few more of the Kieran’s lads, especially Tommy Walsh and Jason Cleere in defence, who finished in top form. Diarmuid Doherty and Kevin Galvin did the same for the opposition.
Sean Morrissey halted the CBS charge when he rifled over a lovely point from distance on the right wing. Within a minute sub Conor O’Carroll added a second one. The divide was now 1-16 to 1-13.
The CBS finished with scores from Gaffney and Matthew McWey, against one reply from Conor Murphy after a foul on Blanchfield, which left them short.
It was a good, manly and skilful contest between two good, well prepared teams. Let’s put it down as an hors d’oeuvre which has whetted the appetite for the main course in the 2014.
SCORERS: St Kieran’s College - Conor Murphy (0-11, ten frees); Sean Morrissey (0-4); Billy Ryan (1-0); Kevin Blanchfield, Conor O’Carroll (0-1 each). Kilkenny CBS - Andrew Gaffney (0-9, seven frees, one 65); Luke Scanlon (1-0); Paul Delahanty (0-2); Niall Mullins, Robbie Murphy, Robbie Buckley, Matthew McWey (0-1 each).
St Kieran’s College - Jason Barcoe (Clara), Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan), Eoin Walsh (Lisdowney), Jason Cleere (Bennettsbridge), Darren Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Billy Hanlon (Barrow Rangers), Michael Cody (Dunnamaggin), James Maher (St Lachtain’s), Kevin Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), Sean Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), Jason Byrne (Clara), Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan), Brian Cody (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Conor Murphy (Graigue Ballycallan). Subs - Gary Tynan (Danesfort) for M. Cody; Daniel O’Connor (O’Loughlin Gaels) for B. Cody; Josh Haines (John Lockes) for B. Hanlon; Conor O’Carroll (Lisdowney) for B. Ryan.
Kilkenny CBS - Darragh Holohan (Dicksboro), Kevin Galvin (Clara), Gary Brien (O’Loughlin Gaels), Huw Lalor (O’Loughlin Gaels), Diarmuid Doherty (Tullaroan), J.P. Treacy (Young Irelands), Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Luke Scanlon (James Stephens), Corey Cahill (Dicksboro), Paul Delahanty (Young Irelands), Cathal McGrath (John Lockes), Niall Mullins (James Stephens), Robbie Murphy (Dicksboro), Andrew Gaffney (Dicksboro), Robbie Buckley (O’Loughlin Gaels). Subs - Matthew McWey (James Sephens) for Brien; Conor Doheny (Dicksboro) for C. Cahill.
Referee - John Bennett (Tullogher-Rosbercon).