Timing can be crucial in sport. Just ask the Kilkenny CBS, who built a successful defence of their Leinster hurling title on the back of two well-measured attacks.
A brace of goals from Jamie Byrne, one at either end of the first half, proved the difference as the champions saw off old rivals St Kieran’s College.
The goals were vital in that they allowed the James’s Street school to firstly fashion a lead, then secondly reinforce it.
Perhaps we got the breaks, but there have been plenty of days where luck has gone against us,” said CBS trainer Niall Tyrrell in the aftermath of Sunday’s win in Nowlan Park.
“We’re under no illusions - we got two lucky goals - but Kieran’s could have got some as they had chances in the second half. On the day, ours ended up in the back of the net.”
In a nutshell, that was the difference between the sides. When the CBS were presented with chances, they took them.
Right from the off they took the game by the scruff of the neck, posting early points through Danny Bolger and Robbie Buckley before Byrne plundered the first of his goals.
Playing at full-forward, Byrne was a real handful for the Kieran’s backs to contend with. On 10 minutes he showed why, reaching highest to pick off J.P. Treacy’s dropping delivery.
Turning towards the target, the sliotar slipped from Byrne’s grasp. It looked like the chance was gone, but he followed the flight of the ball, reaching in to flick it past Kieran’s netminder Jason Barcoe.
Firm grip on game
That strike provided the CBS with the opportunity to take a firm grip on the game. They did that and more, Andrew Gaffney bagging a brace (free, 65) before Robbie Murphy picked off an impressive point from the right, splitting the O’Loughlin’s end posts from the narrowest of angles after a blistering solo run towards the corner.
The CBS had full control of the game by this stage. With Paddy Deegan and Gary Bryan marshalling the backs and J.P. Treacy orchestrating things in midfield they showed plenty of swagger, stifling a Kieran’s side who struggled to find their rhythm.
Things didn’t hit top gear for the Saints in that opening half. Robbie Donnelly’s free-taking provided a steadying hand, his brace adding to good points from Billy Ryan and Brian Cody, but they could never close the early gap the CBS had opened.
The deficit was five points (1-7 to 0-5) approaching the end of the half but, just when Kieran’s thought they had survived, they came a cropper.
Once Gaffney stretched the gap with another free, the CBS were quick to profit from a lucky break. With 60 seconds of normal time left Gaffney went for a point from a long range free, but the sliotar dropped at the last second.
Several Kieran’s hands shot up for the ball, but none claimed it.
Lurking on the edge of the square, Byrne was quickest to react, moving in to boot the sliotar home and swell his side’s lead to nine points (2-8 to 0-5).
Kieran’s rose to the challenge in the second half. By the 41st minute they had five points to their rivals three - Donnelly hitting a treble - but the damage inflicted by those two goals was too much to recover from.
The CBS weren’t as menacing in that second half, but they didn’t need to be. Gaffney (0-3) and Treacy kept them ticking over with points when needed, enough to see them home as confident winners.
“There was a great calm in the dressing-room before the game,” said Tyrrell. “There was no roaring and shouting; they were focused on the game. We came into the final with a game-plan and said we’d stick to it, no matter what. Thankfully it worked for us on the day.”
SCORERS: Kilkenny CBS - Jamie Byrne (2-1); Andrew Gaffney (0-7, 0-4 frees, 0-2 65); J.P. Treacy (0-2); Luke Scanlon, Robbie Buckley, Robbie Murphy (0-1 each). St Kieran’s College - Robbie Donnelly (0-7, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65); Brian Cody (0-3); Billy Ryan, Liam Blanchfield, James Maher (0-1 each).
Kilkenny CBS - Darragh Holohan (Dicksboro), Kevin Galvin (Clara), Cathal McGrath (John Lockes), Conor Doheny (Dicksboro), Gary Bryan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Evan Cody (Dicksboro), Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Niall Mullins (James Stephens), J.P. Treacy (Young Irelands), Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels), Luke Scanlon (James Stephens), Andrew Gaffney (Dicksboro), Robbie Buckley (O’Loughlin Gaels), Jamie Byrne (James Stephens), Robbie Murphy (Dicksboro). Subs: Danny Bolger (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Cody, 52 mins; Matthew McWey (James Stephens) for Murphy, 57 mins.
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), Daniel O’Connor (O’Loughlin Gaels), Niall Walsh (Windgap), Robbie Donnelly (Thomastown), Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan), Brian Cody (Ballyhale Shamrocks). Subs: Josh Haines (John Lockes) for N. Walsh, half-time; Michael Cody (Dunnamaggin) for Keoghan, half-time; Paul White (St Lachtain’s) for E. Walsh, 43 mins; R. Lahart (James Stephens) for Ryan, 47 mins; Tadhg O’Dwyer (James Stephens) for O’Connor, 47 mins.
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).