SCORERS: Ardscoil Ris – Shane Dowling (0-8, 0-6 frees); Brendan O’Connor, Oisin Hickey (1-2 each); Mark Carmody (0-2); Jack Kelliher, Cian Lynch (0-1 each). Castlecomer CS – Charles Dwyer (0-4, 0-2 frees); Eoin Bergin, Luke Maher (0-1 each).
NEVER underestimate the advantage of having the elements at your back.
That was the harsh lesson the senior hurlers from Castlecomer Community School learned, as a wind-assisted Ardscoil Ris breezed past them into the Colleges All-Ireland final in April.
The Limerick side put in a score-packed first half performance that all but guaranteed them a crack at the Croke Cup final in Semple Stadium.
The Munster champions flew through the gears as they sped in at half-time 13 points clear. Castlecomer, who struggled to get out of neutral, had just one point to their credit after 30 frustrating minutes in Templemore on Saturday.
Castlecomer could so easily have given up the ghost as Brendan O’Connor shot the first point of the new half, pushing Ardscoil 14 clear (2-9 to 0-1). However, they reshuffled the team and, helped by a 33rd minute Charles Dwyer free, began to attack the Limerick side.
Eoin Bergin helped them on their way, collecting Robert Moran’s pass and then wriggling away from his marker to add a second ’Comer point in succession a minute later.
Another Dwyer free split the posts just seconds later, the point coming after the scorer was fouled having won a short Ardscoil puck-out.
Dwyer then followed that up with another point, this one from play, after again picking off one of P.J. Hall’s puck-outs. When he scored his fourth of the game in the 36th minute, Brian Cahill winning possession and shipping the sliotar out to Dwyer, Ardscoil could have been forgiven for looking anxious.
Granted, that flurry still left Comer with some work to do – they now trailed by nine points (2-9 to 0-6) – but this was the first time they had really put it up to Ardscoil. Little wonder then that the Limerick side heaved a sigh of relief when Shane Dowling settled their nerves with a 38th minute point.
Had Castlecomer started with such passion, who knows what could have happened. As it was, there was little for the small band of Comer supporters to cheer about in that opening half.
By the time Luke Maher opened Castlecomer’s account with a fine solo point in the 17th minute, the Kilkenny school were already facing an uphill task. Ardscoil, with Shane Dowling (0-3) in fine form, had already notched up 1-4.
Playing with the wind, Ardscoil opted to keep their passes low. The tactic worked, as they played quick snappy hurling, finding team-mates with space to run into and, more importantly, run at the opposing defence.
One such move saw them rattle the net after 13 minutes. Midfielder Mark Ryan collected a sideline cut and then drove it crossfield to the left flank. Brendan O’Connor grabbed the sliotar, held off Kevin Delaney and Ruairi Kinsella, then drilled it into the top right corner.
The half didn’t finish any better for ’Comer. Maher was moved out into a third midfielder role in an effort to stem the level of ball flowing through on his defence.
That didn’t stop Ardscoil Ris for long. Dowling added two more frees to his tally before Oisin Hickey raced on to a long 27th minute crossfield ball and flicked it past netminder David Breen. Backed by an O’Connor point, Ardscoil had a strong lead to take in at the break (2-8 to 0-1).
Once their nerves got over that ’Comer revival Ardscoil Ris set about closing out the game. They introduced a number of subs, while also sniping three points to leave the scoreboard reading 2-13 to 0-6 in their favour with little over ten minutes to play.
Any hopes Castlecomer had of staging a late – and dramatic – revival vanished after that. Sub Brendan Brophy had only goal on his mind when he gathered Robert Moran’s pass and sped towards the posts, but although he chipped the sliotar over the out-rushing P.J. Hall corner-back Kelvin Lynch was on the line to flick the ball clear.
They had another pot at the target with a free awarded in the ensuing scramble for possession. Charles Dwyer had no option but to go for goal from 25 metres out, but Hall made a fine save to maintain his clean sheet.
That was the end of the Castlecomer challenge. Three more points for Ardscoil followed in the final ten minutes, as they set up a showdown with St Kieran’s College in the final.
Castlecomer CS – D. Breen, K. Delaney, R. Healy, N. Callinan, R. Kinsella, B. Cahill, D. Dunne, P. Keating, R. Moran, E. Brennan, C. Dwyer, E. Bergin, A. Carron, S. Daly, L. Maher. Subs: B. Brophy for Carron, 31 mins; S. McDermott for Maher, 59 mins.
Ardscoil Ris – P.J. Hall, K. Lynch, B. O’Connell, D. Maloney. A. Dempsey, D. Hannon, M. Moroney, M. Ryan, J. Shanahan, M. Carmody, S. Dowling, B. O’Connor, K. O’Brien, O. Hickey, J. Fitzgibbon. Subs: J. Kelliher for Fitzgibbon, 42 mins; C. Keogh for Moroney, 46 mins; C. Lynch for O’Brien, 48 mins; E. Fitzgerald for Ryan, 55 mins; M. Foley for Carmody, 56 mins.
Referee – J. Ryan (Tipperary).