Kieran’s hold their nerve to retain Leinster title

St Kieran’s College 2-9

St Kieran’s College 2-9

Kilkenny CBS 1-10

IN THE END it was a case of job done for St Kieran’s College, who held on to Leinster Colleges senior ‘A’ hurling title for the third year in succession, but even the champions admitted they rode their luck at times against cross-city rivals Kilkenny CBS.

“It was a gritty performance in a game which came down to goal chances,” said Kieran’s selector John O’Keeffe after his side edged a tense provincial final in Nowlan Park on Saturday. “We scored a fortuitous goal, the CBS missed a penalty - maybe that was the difference between the two teams.”

Largely played in a tight fashion, the game turned on its head inside seven second half minutes.

Having trailed by three at half-time, Kieran’s went in front when they grabbed a goal out of the blue 10 minutes after the restart.

There seemed to little on when Cormac Wafer fired in a ball from the left flank, a shot which didn’t seem too testing for CBS keeper Darragh Holohan, but the sliotar wriggled through the netminder’s fingertips at the last second and rolled inside his left post.

Goal threat

It was a rub of the green that Kieran’s made full use of just seven minutes later. Thomas O’Hanrahan, a long-time goal threat in the team, had been kept quiet until then, but was given room to latch on to a loose ball in front of the Grace Stand.

Picking up possession, the full-forward drove at the O’Loughlin’s End goal and didn’t stop until he reached the square, pausing only to drill a low shot beyond Holohan.

The goals capped a remarkable turn in fortunes for Kieran’s, who were barged out of their stride within minutes of the throw-in. Although Michael Donnelly gave them an early lead Kevin Kelly weighed in with a quick 1-1 as the CBS took control of the game.

Kelly’s kicked point levelled the game before his seventh minute goal, a fine piercing strike across the target, proved reward for the hard-working CBS.

Playing with determination, they pushed on at the champions, with Kenny, Mason Clifford and Shane Cassin driving their colleagues on.

The James’s Street school did add to their tally with points from Ciaran Doyle - a great score after he sold Robert O’Hanrahan a cheeky dummy hand-pass and Kevin Kenny, but they couldn’t open a gap that would have rewarded their dominance.

Hung on

That was down to Kieran’s, who hung on in there when it mattered most. A Chris Bolger point kept them in the scoring mood as did Donnelly, who wriggled through the challenges of Owen McGrath and Robbie Fitzpatrick before splitting the City End posts on 15 minutes.

A quick rain shower, which killed the breeze at their backs, didn’t help the CBS’s cause but Mason Clifford’s fine point pushed them into a three-point gap at the break. It could have been bigger, but Philly Campion’s bullet-strike flashed wide of goal in the last seconds of the half, a let-off for the Saints (1-4 to 0-4).

Two early Michael Donnelly frees got Kieran’s off to a good start in the second half. Ciaran Doyle hit back with a placed ball score of his own inbetween, but that Wafer goal seemed to spark the Saints into life.

Although the CBS refused to wilt, a point they proved with well-worked scores from Doyle and Mason Clifford, the second Kieran’s goal really shook their confidence.

That said, they had a great chance to get back on level terms after ’keeper Noel Keogh hauled down Clifford in the square. Owen McGrath came up from centre-back to take the penalty, but his shot was tipped over the bar by Kieran’s captain Robert Lennon.

Credit to the CBS, they refused to give in, but that second Kieran’s goal proved to be a gap they couldn’t bridge.

There were some nervy moments for the champions, as two Ciaran Doyle frees left just a point between the sides, but an injury-time free from top scorer Michael Donnelly was the insurance score that pushed the Saints to their 51st title.

It was that Kieran’s ability to hang tough that led them to victory, O’Keeffe reckoned.

Purple patch

“The CBS had their purple patch, but probably didn’t convert their dominance into scores,” he said. “We went in at half-time trailing by just a goal when we could have been down by eight points. We hung on in there.”

And despite being out of the game for long spells, O’Keeffe had special mention for goal-scorer Thomas ‘Tucker’ O’Hanrahan.

“That goal was typical Tucker,” he said. “He got four goals in the quarter-final and some lovely points the last day. He hardly touched the ball for 40 minutes in the final, then he delivered a fabulous goal.”

Kieran’s are now through to the All-Ireland semi-finals, but O’Keeffe believes that the CBS could still have a say in the title shake-up.

“That CBS team have a real hunger about them,” he said. “We could yet meet them again later in this championship - I wouldn’t rule it out.”

That was cold comfort for the CBS however.

“We trained hard for this final,” said Seamus Dwyer, CBS mentor. “We did the majority of the hurling, but good teams will find a way to win - that’s what Kieran’s did.”

The first goal was a sucker punch on a day when hurling karma failed to flow for the CBS.

“Little things didn’t go right for us,” he said. “Even after the second goal we brought it back to a one-point game but couldn’t find the equaliser.”

And like John O’Keeffe, Dwyer believes his team could yet meet their rivals again.

“Kieran’s are the standard-bearers; if you’re as good as them you’re as good as anyone in Ireland,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the quarter-final now - we’re hoping they haven’t seen the last of us!

SCORERS: St Kieran’s College - Michael Donnelly (0-7, 0-6 frees); Thomas O’Hanrahan, Cormac Wafer (1-0 each); Chris Bolger, David Burke (0-1 each). Kilkenny CBS - Kevin Kenny (1-2); Ciaran Doyle (0-5, 0-3 frees); Mason Clifford (0-2); Owen McGrath (0-1, pen).

St Kieran’s College - N. Keogh (Clara), R. O’Hanrahan (Thomastown), R. Lennon (Bennettsbridge), W. Allen (Rower-Inistioge), E. Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), E. Byrne (Young Irelands), A. Cleere (Bennettsbridge), P. Keneally (Dunnamaggin), C. Wafer (Bennettsbridge), C. Bolger (Clara), M. Donnelly (Thomastown), D. Cody (James Stephens), D. Burke (O’Loughlin Gaels), T. O’Hanrahan (Thomastown), C. Prendergast (Clara). Subs: J. McGrath (James Stephens) for Keneally, D. Hennessy (James Stephens) for Cleere, J. Maher (St Lachtain’s) for Bolger, S. Farrell (Dicksboro) for Prendergast.

Kilkenny CBS - D. Holohan (Dicksboro), S. Cassin (Clara), E. Cody (Dicksboro), C. McGrath (John Lockes), N. Mullins (James Stephens), O. McGrath (John Lockes), M. Clifford (Dicksboro), D. Sheehan (Danesfort), J. Langton (Clara), K. Kenny (Dicksboro), S. Cuddihy (Tullaroan), E. Fennelly (Dicksboro), R. Fitzpatrick (Dicksboro), C. Doyle (Barrow Rangers), P. Campion (St Lachtain’s). Subs: D. Bolger (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Campion, J.P. Treacy (Young Irelands) for Fennelly.

Referee: D. Connolly (Mooncoin).