Clever use of the elements saw a determined St Kieran’s College deliver a gale-force performance and sweep into the Leinster colleges senior hurling final.
The newly-crowned League champions have shown a menacing touch to their play this term, and continued in the same vein as they comprehensively dismantled Colaiste Eoin at a wind-swept Fenagh on Saturday, writes Trevor Spillane.
Incredibly, Kieran’s were helped along the way by some bad luck on the Colaiste Eoin front. The Dubliners won the toss and elected to start against the wind, a decision which blew up in their faces as the sharp Saints ran riot.
Kieran’s also had other instances of good fortune on their side, much of which centred on the two goals that helped settle the game.
It was the Kilkenny side’s second goal, which arrived four minutes into the second half, that all but decided the game.
Trying to pick off a point for his side, Kieran’s sub Brian Cody fired off a shot from out on the left flank that looked like going over until the last second.
The sliotar dipped, beating Colaiste ’keeper Tadhg Ó Murchú but not the crossbar. The ball dropped just yards from the line, where Robbie Donnelly was waiting to slam it home.
It was after the sliotar crossed the line that things got interesting. Colaiste Eoin appealed for a square ball, something one of the umpires agreed with - but referee Pat Kehoe overruled his colleague and let the goal stand.
Boosted by that, the Kieran’s lead now stood at a 2-11 to 0-2. Even with 25 minutes left on the clock, there was no way back for Colaiste Eoin.
Rub of green
Although Colaiste opened the scoring with a Colm Ó Néill free, that proved to be the high point of their day. Instead, they were undone by an early rub of the green that fell Kieran’s way. Sean Morrissey profited from that, shooting his side in front when his fifth minute point attempt from way out on the right deceived ’keeper Tadhg Ó Murchú and ended up in the net.
The goal might have had some good fortune attached to it, but there was nothing lucky in the way Kieran’s went about reinforcing their advantage. Midfielders Kevin Blanchfield and Jason Byrne really impressed for the winners, continuously winning possession and running at the Colaiste Eoin defence before finding the space to set up plenty of attacks for their team-mates.
It also helped that Kieran’s had the accuracy of Donnelly in their arsenal. The corner-forward helped himself to seven points in the first half - five from placed balls (three 65s and two frees) as the Saints poured forward at every opportunity.
As the game wore on Colaiste Eoin were becoming more and more frustrated, especially as they felt decisions were going against them. The Dubliners believed one of Donnelly’s points had been wide - one umpire waved the shot astray before a score was awarded. At the other end a Con Ó Ceallacháin shot was waved wide when his side felt the ball had gone over the bar.
Drive and determination
As it happened, those instances mattered little in the long run. Full of drive and determination, Kieran’s looked comfortable at the break (1-10 to 0-2).
Colaiste Eoin believed the wind would do them a favour in the second half, but any hopes they had of turning the game their way crumbled within minutes of the restart. After falling further behind thanks to another Robbie Donnelly free, the Dubliners were all but sunk when Donnelly plundered a second Kieran’s goal with 34 minutes on the clock.
Even though they were now a whopping 14 points clear (2-11 to 0-2), Kieran’s didn’t ease off. Instead, the winners showed a different side to their game, as their defence stepped up to the mark. As a unit the backs pressed forward, the impressive Darren Mullen leading the way by getting involved at every turn, mopping up plenty of breaking ball from Tadhg Ó Murchú’s wind-assisted puck-outs.
Colaiste Eoin had no answer to the steely Kieran’s resolve, continuing to pump long ball forward in an effort to make a breakthrough. They did mine three points in a row between the 36th and 44th minutes - their best return of the day - but it scarcely dented the deficit they faced.
As for Kieran’s, they refused to let Colaiste Eoin back into the game. That determination was evident when Sean Morrissey notched up a point in the 47th minute, the score coming after he and Donnelly chased down and dispossessed half-back Cian Ó Riain Broin as he tried to clear.
It was an impressive finish for Kieran’s, who didn’t relax until they heard the final whistle. The impressive Liam Blanchfield proved as much, delivering an excellent cross for sub Josh Haines to turn into the point that hammered the final nail in the Colaiste Eoin coffin.
SCORERS: St Kieran’s College - Robbie Donnelly (1-9, 0-4 frees, 0-3 65); Sean Morrissey (1-1); Jason Byrne, Liam Blanchfield, Niall Walsh, Josh Haines (0-1 each). Colaiste Eoin - Colm Ó Neill (0-3, frees); Con Ó Ceallacháin, Stiofán Ó Duibhir, Sean Ó Dúlaing, Fionn Ó Riain Broin (0-1 each).
St Kieran’s College - Jason Barcoe (Clara), Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan), Eoin Walsh (Lisdowney), Jason Cleere (Bennettsbridge), Darren Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks), James Maher (St Lachtain’s), Jack Keoghan (Tullaroan), Kevin Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), Jason Byrne (Clara), Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), Sean Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), Tadhg O’Dwyer (James Stephens), Robbie Donnelly (Thomastown), Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan), Niall Walsh (Windgap). Subs: Brian Cody (Ballyhale Shamrocks) for Ryan, 31 mins; Ray Lahart (James Stephens) for O’Dwyer, 31 mins; Josh Haines (John Lockes) for Byrne, 50 mins; Conor O’Carroll (Lisdowney) for Lahart (inj), 52 mins; Bill Carrigan (Clara) for Mullen (inj), 56 mins.
Colaiste Eoin - Tadhg Ó Murchú, Enda Ó Lorcáin, Donncha Ó Murchú, Cillian Ó Seanáin, Jake Ó Maoileoin, Fionn Ó Riain Broin, Cian Ó Riain Broin, Sean Ó Dúlaing, Eoghan Ó Naoire, Dara Ó Gallchobhair, Rian MacGiolla Bhríde, Fergal de Fuitléigh, Con Ó Ceallacháin, Colm Ó Néill, Luc Ó Giolláin. Subs: Stiofán Ó Duibhir for Ó Giolláin, 31 mins; Ben Mac Cormaic for Ó Gallchobhair, 35 mins.
Ref - Pat Kehoe (Carlow).