A sharp display from Andrew Gaffney saw Kilkenny CBS roar into the semi-finals of the Leinster colleges senior hurling semi-finals.
Gaffney dominated the scoreboard, rattling off 1-13 as the reigning champions saw off St Brendan’s (Birr) in their high noon clash on Saturday.
The city side got to grips with the all-weather pitch at Heywood much faster than their rivals. The CBS used the slick surface to their advantage, playing a fast and direct style of hurling which Birr couldn’t cope with.
Backed by the breeze St Brendan’s tried to force their way into the game but conceded a series of frees which proved to be their downfall.
Two early Gaffney frees settled the CBS into a good rhythm, a point they proved with their next score. Niall Mullins, James Byrne and Matthew McWey linked up well, working the sliotar as they searched for a scoring angle. In the end they drew a foul from a frustrated Birr, giving Gaffney the simple task of adding his third free.
The Offaly side weren’t having much luck, a feeling which grew stronger when Brian Hogan saw his long range free clatter a post and come back out - they would hit the post three times in the first half alone.
The CBS weren’t having such problems, swiftly moving further in front when Gaffney stole in at the far side of the square to flick Byrne’s dropping diagonal ball past netminder Eoghan Carroll.
St Brendan’s responded with a point of their own through Conor Freeman, but they could have had more. Shane Ryan did well to pick up John Murray’s snappy cross and lashed a searing shot goalwards, but his strike struck the post and came back out.
With Gaffney showing unerring accuracy from free the CBS pressed on. He added a brace by the 18th minute, and while Shane Ryan cancelled those out with two of his own, Gaffney’s incredible scoring run continued as his seventh score from placed balls (six frees and a 65) helped push his side 1-7 to 0-5 ahead by the 28th minute.
It wasn’t all one-way scoring for the CBS - James Lenehan added his name to the list when he notched their first point from play - but their six-point lead was halved when Birr went for broke with the last act of the half.
Awarded a free close to the square, Birr brought centre-back Hogan up to take the strike.
It looked like the CBS had escaped when Hogan’s bouncing shot was stopped by netminder Darragh Holohan, but Hogan reacted quickest to slam home the rebound (1-8 to 1-5).
Any hopes Birr had of building on that goal after the restart were firmly extinguished by a determined CBS. The new half had barely rumbled into life when Luke Scanlon won possession in midfield and hared towards goal, pausing only to pick off a point following a stylish solo.
The gap was extended to five points when Niall Mullins picked off a Birr puck-out and sent it back over the Offaly side’s crossbar, but better was to follow.
Birr, who had been stuck in neutral since the restart, were hit with another blow when the CBS bombed forward and rattled the net for a second time with 39 minutes on the clock.
In one of their most stylish moves of the game Scanlon, Robbie Murphy and James Byrne glided across the all-weather pitch as their searing pace and quick, accurate passes cut St Brendan’s to shreds. Paul Delahunty profited at the end of the move, collecting the sliotar and selling goalkeeper Eoghan Cahill a dummy before finishing from close range.
That pushed the CBS lead out to double scores (2-10 to 1-5). Even with 20 minutes left, the game looked a lost cause for Brendan’s, but they didn’t throw in the towel.
Spurred on by Shane Ryan (two frees) and Eoin Carroll they tried to edge back into the game, but with Mullins firing over a point from half-way the CBS were always able to keep their rivals at arm’s length.
The city side proved as much as the game ticked into the last 10 minutes, as they put together a scoring run which pushed the result beyond doubt.
While Birr pressed for more scores they only found frustration, conceding three frees that were comfortably converted by Gaffney. He added two 65s for good measure in a solid six-minute spell.
A Brian Hogan goal, scored from a free, lifted some of the gloom for Birr, but there would be no late drama. Darragh Holohan saw to that, pulling off a superb save to deny Hogan a hat-trick when he aimed a stoppage time penalty at the net.
SCORERS: Kilkenny CBS - Andrew Gaffney (1-13, 0-9 frees, 0-3 65); Paul Delahunty (1-0); Niall Mullins (0-2); James Lenehan, Luke Scanlon (0-1 each). St Brendan’s Birr - Brian Hogan (2-2, frees); Shane Ryan (0-5, 0-4 frees); Conor Freeman, Eoin Carroll, Brian Loughnane (0-1 each).
Kilkenny CBS - Darragh Holohan, Kevin Galvin, J.P. Treacy, Dylan Scott, Gary Bryan, Paddy Deegan, Cathal McGrath, Niall Mullins, James Lenehan, Andrew Gaffney, Luke Scanlon, Paul Delahunty, Robbie Murphy, James Byrne, Matthew McWey. Subs: Diarmuid Doheny for Scott, 43 mins; Robbie Buckley for Murphy, 48 mins; Danny Bolger for Byrne (inj), 51 mins; Huw Lawlor for Galvin, 59 mins; Conor Doheny for McWey, 60 mins.
St Brendan’s Birr - Eoghan Cahill, Eoin Parlon, Craig Taylor, Scott Feenane, Brian Loughnane, Brian Hogan, James Hardiman, Podge Guinan, Brian Dunne, Sean Dunne, Ryan O’Meara, Conor Freeman, John Murray, Shane Ryan, Eoin Carroll. Subs: James Gilligan for Dunne, 31 mins; Michael Gilligan for Murray, 58 mins.
Referee - Brochan O’Reilly (Laois).