Kieran’s back in final, but they will have to do better

St Kieran’s College...................3-10

St Kieran’s College...................3-10

Charleville.......CBS 0-7

Scorers: St Kieran’s College – Thomas O’Hanrahan (2-2); John Power (1-3, frees); Michael Donnelly (0-2, one free); Jack Nolan, Michael Brennan, Hugh O’Neill (0-1 each). Charleville CBS – David Reidy (0-2, one free, one 65); John Morrissey (0-2); Pa O’Callaghan, Dean Copps (0-1 each); Mark Kavanagh (0-1, free).

THE most positive things were wrapped-up in the negative in that St Kieran’s College known they are better, and they know they must play better.

Now there is no disguising the biggest challenge that lies ahead on the weekend after next. It is simple. Kieran’s must produce bigger and better in the final.

The challenge will be mighty in the All-Ireland repeat of last year against revenge seeking Ardscoil Ris (Limerick), but St Kieran’s being St Kieran’s, they will be ready.

St Kieran’s, the highest of the high achieving in the All-Ireland colleges senior hurling championship, didn’t exactly cut loose when scoring an efficient and handy enough win over much changed Harty Cup final losers, Charleville CBS in this semi-final in Tipperary Town on Saturday.

The Noresiders looked most promising when playing into the strong wind during the opening half. An interval lead of 1-7 to 0-3 reflected an effort that was good, dominant even.

Then within 20 seconds of the restart the winners snatched a second goal.

It would be unfair to the players to suggest St Kieran’s played badly afterwards. They didn’t, but their failure to drive on strongly against a disjointed Charleville team meant they sealed the deal in a flat sort of way.

“In that form we wouldn’t have a hope against Ardscoil Ris,” was the instant summary from joint team manager, Tom Hogan. “We will have to improve, a lot. We were happy at half-time. We had played well against the wind but in the second half we didn’t push on.

“We had a few injuries, which didn’t help things. Our hurling stuttered and started. There was no fluency to our play. We are there anyway. The goal early in the second half might have worked against us. When you are that far ahead lads do ease off.

Big opportunity

“There is more in the players. They have shown that. Now they need to show it again. This is a big opportunity for the players. There are only a few times in you life when you might get a chance to win an All-Ireland final.

“The opportunity has to be taken. There is no point having regrets.”

Charleville fielded a team that showed nine positional changes from the one that lost heavily in the Munster final. The only line that remained intact was the half-back trio of Conor Twomey, team captain David Reidy at centre-back and Alan Dennehy, who all played well with the skipper the best of the lot by a distance. Beyond that trio Pa O’Callaghan, Dean Copps and John Morrissey looked good but the reconstruction didn’t smack of belief.

There was a familiar look to the St Kieran’s personnel, if not the entire line-up. That was understandable with that rare talent, Cillian Buckley, earning a more central role at midfield instead of wing-forward as he gets additional work under his belt after a long lay-off through injury.

As well, Diarmuid Cody, who got a chance to break into the team in the Leinster final, was chosen to lead the attack at centre-forward.

Charleville were under pressure from the off. Within 30 seconds Jack Nolan zipped up the right wing before shooting a point. Shortly afterwards corner-forward Thomas O’Hanrahan ran on to a directed low delivery from John Power on the right wing before sending the white flying again.

And on five minutes O’Hanrahan showed great control of the ball before claiming another lovely point off his left.

A quick score from Michael Brennan followed. With barely six minutes showing on the clock the challengers already looked troubled. Kieran’s inside trio were on the score sheet already.

The challengers even tried a three man midfield in a bid to find a way into the game, but that worked against them because the free man in the Kieran’s defence, Luke Hickey, simply cleaned-up. The Leesiders eventually opened their account in the 13th minute with a good point from 50 metres by Dean Copps after very fine work by Conor Twomey and John Morrissey (0-4 to 0-1).

A brace of minors followed from John Power, one following a jersey pull on him and the other after a defender was ruled to have charged with the ball, before John Morrissey hit Charleville’s second goal in the 27th minute.

Within a minute the ball was in the losers net. Michael Brennan was fouled in front of goal after fielding a cross from the left by O’Hanrahan. John Power went for broke from the 20-metre free. His success carried Kieran’s into an interval lead of 1-7 to 0-3.

Second Kieran’s goal

The umpires were barely in place for the second half when the difference jumped to 10 points when Kieran’s goaled again.

This time Michael Brennan worked a bit of magic to the right at the town end. He worked the ball into Thomas O’Hanrahan, who won space by throwing a lovely dummy hand-pass, before finishing to the bottom right corner of the net.

Kieran’s began to pare back their forces after that with John Power joining starting wing-back, Enda Morrissey on the bench. Buckley departed later. The following 20 minutes produced little to warm the small sized crowd. Points were exchanged by John Morrissey (C) and a more involved Michael Donnelly.

While Charleville gained a stronger foothold in the game their best efforts, including a ‘go’ for a goal from a 20-metre free by Mark Kavanagh, were beaten back. Kieran’s did enough.

So Kieran’s head into the final knowing there is more in them, and they have to produce it. Not a bad position to be in, actually. Their best – based on the first half showing - were a powerful Willie Phelan at full-back, Pat O’Carroll, Patrick Butler, Cillian Buckley, John Power and Thomas O’Hanrahan, while Diarmuid Cody and Michael Donnelly fared better afterwards.

St Kieran’s College – Sam Johnston (O’Loughlin-Gaels), Luke Hickey (James Stephens), William Phelan (Dunnamaggin), Robert O’Hanrahan (Thomastown), Cathal O’Neill (Danesfort), Pat O’Carroll (Lisdowney), Enda Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), Patrick Butler (O’Loughlin-Gaels), Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro), John Power (Carrickshock), Diarmuid Cody (James Stephens), Michael Donnelly (Thomastown), Jack Nolan (O’Loughlin-Gaels), Michael Brennan (St Patrick’s), Thomas O’Hanrahan (Thomastown). Subs – Richie Reid (Shamrocks) for Power ht; Killian Phelan (Clara) for Buckley 46th min; David Burke (O’Loughlin-Gaels) for Power 46th min; Hugh O’Neill (Bennettsbridge) for Nolan 57th min.

Charleville CBS – T.J. Garvey, S. Butler, D. McCarthy, T. Rea, C. Twomey, D. Reidy (capt), A. Dennehy, M. Kavanagh, J. Morrissey, D. Sheehy, P. O’Callaghan, G. Kelleher, D. Copps, J. Madigan, J. O’Brien.

Referee – P. Casey (Waterford).