ST PATRICK’S (Ballyragget) and Piltown open proceedings at Nowlan Park on Sunday (1.45pm) when they square up in the J.J Kavanagh and Sons junior hurling championship final. Both have been impressive on their way to the final.
The current St Patrick’s club which was founded in 1954 and they are seeking their second title at this level having won it in 1978 before going on to win the intermediate championship in 1979. Those successes came in the era when inter-county star Matt Ruth played with the club.
Ruth was an influential member of the Kilkenny team around that time, and he is now a member of the back room team.
St Patrick’s then spent six years competing in the senior championship, with moderate success. A couple of great games against the famous Ballyhale Shamrocks during that period stand out.
Relegation to the intermediate grade was followed by the drop to the junior grade in 1985. Since then they have campaigned in that championship without success. They reached the Northern final in 1988 where they were beaten by a good Barrow Rangers side that went on to win the county title.
They again reached the Northern final in 1991 when they were a trifle unlucky to lose by a point (1-7 to 0-9) to St Lachtain’s (Freshford). Then in 2003 they bridged a 25 year gap in the Northern championship when they beat Galmoy to win the final.
Sunday’s opponents Piltown were also the opposition in the county final. It took two attempts to decide things. The Ballyragget side led by nine points at one stage of the first game but the Southerners fought back to earn a draw, 2-12 each.
Won in North
The replay was just as hard fought. Piltown won by 1-11 to 1-8.
St Patrick’s come to this final with the Northern title already secured. For the first time this year the Northern and Southern championships were separate championships from the county competition, and it seems to have been a resounding success.
St Patrick’s beat Blacks and Whites, Erin’s Own, St Martin’s and Galmoy to win Northern final and they haven’t looked back since.
In the first round of the championship they had a surprisingly easy win over Bennettsbridge (2-16 to 1-8). In the quarter-finals they got the better of fancied Thomastown by 1-16 to 1-10 to get a crack at O Loughlin Gael.
The city side were dispatched with the minimum of fuss although the Ballyragget mentors might be a little concerned that they appeared to take their foot off the pedal in the second half when victory was in sight.
St Patrick’s will look to the likes of Kieran Delaney, who has been an inspiring captain, Brian (Brooky) Phelan, James Gannon, Kevin Kelly, Seoirse Kenny and the Brennan brothers to see them through. Most of those players have seen inter county action at one level or another and will not lack in confidence.
The Piltown club was formed in 1887 and reformed in 1953 and has become synonymous as a club, which developed and promoted the ethos of the GAA from grass roots level, harnessing considerable success on the field.
The club played in two senior county finals in 1904 and 1910, losing both to Tullaroan. Whilst the first championship success came with the junior title in 1981, the club competed strongly in numerous intermediate finals and semi-finals throughout the eighties, but failed to field the final hurdle to senior level. Easy quarter-final
Piltown won further junior titles in 1996 and also in 2003, when they had a particularly successful year, also winning the Southern League and and Southern and county championship finals and the Leinster junior championship.
That year was rounded off with the club receiving the proud honour of Kilkenny GAA Club of the year.
The club also won junior hurling championship titles in 1995 (South), 2000(South) and junior (1) and intermediate football championships (2) in 1994, 1997 and 2000. Their recent wins included three Southern junior hurling leagues (’08,’09 and ’10) and a county intermediate football league (2010).
In the league section of the championship a loss to Thomastown, a draw with Bennettsbridge and victories over Black and Whites, Lisdowney and Slieverue resulted in a trird placed group position and a first round clash with neighbours and great rivals, Windgap. The Suirsiders squeezed home by four points after a terrific tussle (0-15 to 0-11).
They had a much easier quarter-final victory over Slieverue. A Piltown goal just on half time opened up a gap that Slieverue couldn’t bridge (2-21 to 0-7).
In the semi-final Piltown had a surprisingly comfortable win over Lisdowney (2-17 to1-8). The likes of Shane Kinchella, Pa Connolly, Philip Kenny, Mark Culleton and the Mc Carthys’ have experience at a higher level and will all want to return to the intermediate grade as soon as possible.
This final has all the ingredients of a thriller. Much has been made of the potential scoring power of the Ballyragget forwards.
However, closer examination shows Piltown have actually scored one point more than their opponents in the championship (4-53 to 4-52). Will the more experienced Southerners again prove to be too strong for the youthful Ballyragget team or can St Patrick’s atone for a disappointing defeat in the 2003 final?
We will get the answer on Sunday afternoon.
Piltown - James Norris, Brendan Norris, Pa connolly, Michael burchill, John Brophy, Andrew McCarthy, Shane Kinsella, Philip Kenny, Kevin Walsh, Nicky Kenny, Peter McCarthy, Kevin Brophy, Richie McCarthy, Neil Kelly, Robbie Culleton, David Burchill, Thomast Talbot, Brian Farrell, Martin Power, Paul Kirby, Daniel Norris, Kieran Norris, Nollaig Brophy, James Phelan, Andrew Norris, Mark Culleton, Seamus Norris, Niall Kinsella, James Connolly.
St Patrick’s - Michael Gannon, John Mooney, Geogg Morrissey, Steve Staunton, Kieran Delaney (capt), Geogg Brennan, Stephen Roberts, Brian ‘Brooky’ Phelan, James Gannon, Jody Phelan, Seoirse Kenny, Kevin Kelly, Michael Brennan, Bill Staunton, Joe Brennan, Liam Lacey, Brendan Dooley, Conor Delaney, Eoghan Bergin, James Morrissey, Robbie Healy, Alan Ruth, Sean Mooney, Conor Foley, John Holland, Paddy Cahill, Brian ‘Tom’ Phelan, Paddy McEvoy, Mark Staunton, Conor Bolter, J.J. O’Sullivan, Enda Mooney, Donal Brennan, Dermot Brophy.