The senior hurlers from St Kieran’s College booked their place in another final, but had to battle past a familiar foe to get there.
A tilt at the Leinster Colleges senior hurling league title is up for grabs - they’ll play Borris VS in the decider - but Kilkenny CBS pushed them hard for that berth.
In the end, it was their bank of experience that swung the tie St Kieran’s way. They were able to call on 10 of the team that lifted the All-Ireland title back in April for this city derby. The CBS had three of their starting 15 from that clash.
It was that knowledge of when to attack and when to sit back and ride out the storm that went a long way towards separating the sides at a drizzly Larchfield on Monday afternoon.
For Kieran’s the day began in the right fashion when Niall Walsh got them up and running with a smart point from Sean Morrissey’s sharp hand-pass, but they were caught on their heels as the CBS hit back.
Despite missing some of their key players, a group that included the likes of Andrew Gaffney and Luke Scanlon, the CBS showed sharp attacking teeth in the opening stages.
Bill Sheehan had them level within minutes of that Kieran’s opener, profiting from good defensive work from Alan Phelan and Cian Loy’s accurate crossfield pass, but better was to follow.
With five minutes on the clock, the boys from James’s Street made a dash in the race to control the game, Jake Scanlon driving a bullet-like strike to the dressing-room end net after Sheehan teed him up with a clever pass.
The goal ruffled the Kieran’s feathers, but they didn’t panic too much. Liam Blanchfield took the sting out of that goal with a good point. It was followed by a like score from Joe Connolly, but only once the Saints recycled play after CBS netminder Jamie Byrne made a fine save to deny the oncoming Blanchfield a goal following his break down the right.
Scanlon kept the CBS ticking over when he added a point to their tally soon after, but as the end of the first quarter loomed Kieran’s began to settle into the game. Points from Connolly, Edmond Delaney (free) and Blanchfield had them level by the 14th minute, but their scoring run could have yielded more.
Once more CBS goalkeeper Byrne was a thorn in their side, this time denying Sheehan a goal with a point-blank save in the 13th minute.
It was advantage CBS again soon after, Shane Maher (free) levelling matters before Ross Butler landed a fine point from long range, but Kieran’s were about to embark on a charge. Getting on top in the middle third they drew the CBS half-forwards out, a move which isolated their full-forward line.
Kieran’s were back on level terms when Jason Byrne gobbled up Delaney’s quick line ball and fired it over. A Delaney 65 edged them into a lead they would not lose - but only after Byrne pulled off another good save to tip Billy Ryan’s fierce shot around the post.
The netminder kept his side in the game with another good stop in the closing stages, but Niall Walsh’s point meant Kieran’s were two to the good at the interval (0-9 to 1-4).
With the drizzle growing steadily heavier the second half contrived to sap the energy from the two teams. With the conditions taking their toll on the teams, it was no surprise to see the pace drop off.
The third quarter saw just three scores registered. Crucially, Kieran’s got them all via livewire forward Billy Ryan, Richie Leahy and Joe Connolly.
The CBS needed a score badly to get back into the game, something Cian Loy provided with a 49th minute free. They also had Jamie Byrne to thank for being close to Kieran’s, as yet again he pulled off a save to deny Leahy.
When Loy converted his second free the gap was down to three (0-12 to 1-6) with six minutes left to play, but Kieran’s weren’t about to let their rivals back into the game and worked hard to close it out.
Billy Ryan was there when his side needed him most, bursting out from a cluster of players to shoot the insurance point before sub Daniel O’Connor added another in additional time, just to make sure of that place in the final.
SCORERS: St Kieran’s College - Joe Connolly (0-3); Edmond Delaney (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 65); Liam Blanchfield, Billy Ryan, Niall Walsh (0-2 each); Jason Byrne, Richie Leahy, Daniel O’Connor (0-1 each). Kilkenny CBS - Jake Scanlon (1-1); Cian Loy (0-2, frees); Shane Maher (0-1, free); Bill Sheehan, Ross Butler (0-1 each).
St Kieran’s College - Adrian Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Michael Cody (Dunnamaggin), Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan), Martin Keoghan (Tullaroan), Jason Cleere (Bennettsbridge), Jack Keoghan (Tullaroan), Eoin Walsh (Lisdowney), Jason Byrne (Clara), Sean Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge), Joe Connolly (Clara), Niall Walsh (Windgap), Tadhg O’Dwyer (James Stephens), Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan), Edmond Delaney (Conahy Shamrocks). Subs: John Barron (Thomastown), Aidan Nolan (Dicksboro), Richie Leahy (Rower-Inistioge), Kevin Murphy (Rower-Inistioge), Daniel O’Connor (O’Loughlin Gaels).
Kilkenny CBS - Jamie Byrne (Dicksboro), Kevin Galvin (Clara), Diarmuid Dunne (Tullaroan), Alan Phelan (Dicksboro), Marc Drennan (Barrow Rangers), Gary Bryan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Conor Doheny (Dicksboro), Chris Kavanagh (Dicksboro), Cian Loy (O’Loughlin Gaels), Bill Cuddihy (Tullaroan), Ross Butler (O’Loughlin Gaels), Shane Maher (O’Loughlin Gaels), Robbie Murphy (Dicksboro), Jake Scanlon (James Stephens), Bill Sheehan (Dicksboro). Subs: John Walton (Tullaroan), Sean Bolger (O’Loughlin Gaels), Pat Byrne (Conahy Shamrocks), Ciaran Ryan (Dicksboro).
Referee - Eamon Mansfield (Cloneen).