FORM has been running straight and true in the two top hurling championships in Kilkenny this season. The two teams who contested the senior hurling league final have booked a repeat in the championship showdown.
And on Sunday in Nowlan Park, the Michael Lyng Motors intermediate hurling championship final will be a repeat of the League decider between the Rower-Inistioge (winners) and Danesfort. Whatever anyone might want to suggest afterwards, they cannot say either side have been lucky because they have shown consistency throughout the season.
If form thus far is anything to go by, then fans are in for a right hurling treat because the two teams are liberally sprinkled with classy individuals, and as well structured units, they are fair details too.
The Rower won the League final by 2-16 to 1-14 a few weeks ago, after extra-time. With normal time up they were behind, but two minutes into ‘lost’ time influential centre-forward, James Cashin, who got better as the match wore on, cracked home a great goal to force the tie into extra-time.
In this phase of the game the Rower appeared to have more in the legs, and some delightful scores from flying attackers, Paul Sheehan, Cashin and the Graces, Sean and Michael earned them the honours.
Winners all the way
Danesfort are often referred to as the club of the Hogans’, Richie and Paddy, the two best known players who don the colours. They are Kilkenny senior panelists who have enjoyed hurling riches at whatever level they have performed, be it colleges with St Kieran’s, inter-county and even with the club they have sampled All-Ireland success in the junior grade.
Their third man on the Kilkenny senior team is defender, Paul Murphy, who has been in brilliant form at all levels this season. The ’Fort contested this final in 2008, but on that occasion they were bettered by Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) by 2-10 to 1-10.
Most of the Danesfort squad was involved in that final, so they have been around this territory before. The trio mentioned above, goalie Frank Manogue, who was an attacker on that occasion, Tony Woodcock, David and Padraig Forristal, Robbie Walsh and others felt the pain that afternoon.
The Rower, club of one of the most gifted hurlers of all time, the great Eddie Keher, have never contested the intermediate final. They have one senior success to their credit (1968). They are regarded as a huge club in hurling circles in Kilkenny and beyond, but they have struggled to get out of the grade since they slipped into it in 1987.
Three times they were beaten in semi-finals, but the recent League win has prompted some to suggest that maybe, just maybe, this might be their year to get back up to where they feel they belong, in the senior division.
Team manager, Pat O’Neill, has mouled the players into a slick, determined unit. Their greatest strength is the balance of the team, and there is great unity and hunger within the squad.
Can hold their own
The likes of team captain, Kieran Joyce, Michael Grace, Sean Cummins, Paul Sheehan, Mark Moore, James Cashin and agile ’keeper, Liam Tierney, who has a great eye and an even better pair of hands, are players who could hold their own at any level locally.
They proved in the tense, nerve testing semi-final win over St Lachtain’s (Freshford) that they can mix up a whole series of elements in their game when the need arises - skill, a dogged attitude, a touch of steel, heart and so on. This final is huge hurling business for the Rower. The players have a golden opportunity to take the big step up in grand style, as double champions, League and Championship.
Danesfort know that any day they go out they have a chance. Why not? Afterall, they have three senior panelists in their squad, and Richie Hogan is a potential match winner anywhere, any time. Sure didn’t he bag a magnificent goal in the All-Ireland final against Tipperary that turned out to be a huge score in the end.
This is a fascinating match. Generations of Rower-Inistioge players and club members have been waiting for this opportunity to get back senior for over four decades.
They believe in the men of today. The players have taken a big step by winning the League title. But the season won’t be deemed a real success unless the championship title can be added. They players know the story, and they are ready to let rip so a cherished wish can become reality.
Rower-Inistioge - Liam Tierney, Eoin Dole, Mark Moore, James Doyle, Tadhg Leahy, Sean Cummins, David Lyng, Joe Lyng, Kieran Joyce (capt), Sean Grace, James Cashin, Ruari Galavan, Michael Grace, Conor Joyce, Paul Sheehan, David Murphy, David Tennyson, Niel Lyng, P.J. Wilmott, Padraig Tierney, George Allen, Conor Lyng, Nicky Kenny, Sean Lyster, Padraig Grace, Toby Kavanagh, Tommy Grace, James Roche, Robert Grace, Michael Cashin, Paduie Fleming, Paul Flood, Tom Murphy, Richard Ryan, Padraig Ryan, Luke Tennyson.
Danesfort - Frank Manogue, Philip Walsh, Ciaran Treacy, Mick Cunningham, Tony Woodcock, Paddy Hogan, Gavin O’Keeffe, Paul Murphy, Martin McMahon, Robbie Walsh, Stephen Duncan, Oisin Daly, Cillian Treacy, David Forristal, Richie Hogan (capt), Seham Hurley, Darren Booth, Cathal O’Neill, Padraig Forristal, Ben O’Connor, John Doheny, Liam Phelan,Richard Troy, Frank Ryan, Johny Ryan, Michael Moylan, Darren Knox, Paddy Hickey, Ciran Walsh, Michael Saunders, Jack Bruton, Liam Forristal, Tommy Ryan, James Cunningham, Michael Maher, Patrick Tynan.