Eoin O'Shea (St Kieran's College) finds his path blocked by a St Brigid's Loughrea player
The semi-final hurdle was cleared with relative ease, but St Kieran’s College were still taking things easy as they geared up for another senior All-Ireland hurling final.
The reigning champions showed their skill to power their way past St Brigid’s College of Loughrea in Tullamore, but as far as mentor Tom Hogan was concerned their biggest test lay ahead in the form of final opponents Our Lady’s of Templemore.
“From early in the year Templemore were put out as favourites to win the Harty Cup and the All-Ireland,” he said. “They have a number of players who featured in last year’s Tipperary minor team so they have a lot more experience than us, but you never know. Work-rate and ambition adds a lot to the equation too. We’re looking forward to the challenge facing us on Saturday.”
That feeling of a team facing a tough task is mutual in Templemore.
“It is going to be a huge challenge,” said Our Lady’s mentor Tom Byrnes. “We have a chance, and we will give it our best shot.
“Belief has a lot to do in situations like this,” he added. “We played St Kieran’s twice this year in challenge matches. They wiped the floor with us the week before we played the Harty Cup quarter-final. That result fairly grounded our lads for the rest of the season.”
If the qualities of the Kieran’s team had been measured in Tullamore, then surely the results would have been off the scale. While St Brigid’s were bright in the opening stages, using their pace to put pressure on Kieran’s, once the Kilkenny side found their rhythm they proved unstoppable.
In a 17-minute first half purple patch they roared into the lead, helping themselves to 1-9 without reply as they tore into a commanding lead.
Captain Adrian Mullen was central to that run, grabbing 1-5. His goal was the centrepiece of that haul, the Kieran’s captain gathering Ted Drea’s 18th minute hand-pass and rifling it past netminder Brendan Lynch.
By half-time Mullen had scored 1-8. Kieran’s were 1-13 to 0-3 in front. Things were already looking grim for St Brigid’s.
Once St Kieran’s shook off the shackles - no easy thing considering the threat posed by a Loughrea side ably led by Dylan Towolawi and Donal Mannion - they took the game by the scruff of the neck. The pressure was on them bur Kieran’s responded, something the practically all-new team have done with merit all year.
“We haven’t mentioned last year’s performances at all,” Hogan said when speaking of the current crop. “It’s a different experience for different players; you just get on with it. It’s a new team, and these guys want to make their own bit of history if they can. We’re in the final now, so all we can do is to perform to the best of our ability.”
Hogan’s fellow selector Michael Walsh echoed those sentiments before the Leinster final, stating how the pressure had been kept off the players.
“All we ask the players to do, every time they go out onto the field, is to play to the best of their abilities,” he said. “If their performance is good enough to win a match that’s great; if it isn’t that’s fine too once they leave everything on the field. That’s all we ask of them.
“Nothing was expected from this group of players,” he said. “The fact we won the Leinster championship was a bonus. After that we simply said we were going to try and get to the All-Ireland final. We’re in it, now we’ll see what happens.”
Hogan was happy with how Kieran’s coped with the Brigid’s threat in that first half.
“We played with the wind in the first half and straight away there’s pressure on you because you have to build up a lead if you can,” he said. “We saw them last week against St Colman’s and saw they were a running team who would put pressure on you.
“Our backs were excellent in that game; they’ve been the foundation of the team. They were able to keep them to three points in the first half, which was a great cushion. I know that didn’t guarantee a win, but gave us some breathing space.”
Mention of the backs brought up Martin Keoghan who, along with captain Adrian Mullen, played in last year’s All-Ireland win. With one at either end of the field the players, Hogan reckoned, have been invaluable to the rest of the team.
“They’re exceptional,” he said of the duo. “They’re two great players who are outstanding hurlers. For this team to have those two guys on the team it’s excellent as we have one in the backs and one in the forwards. They’re quiet guys, but they let their hurling do the talking.”
Semple Stadium is a happy hunting ground for Hogan and selector Philip Walsh, who led Kieran’s to successive Croke Cup wins over Ard Scoil Ris in 2010 and 2011 in Thurles, but he played down the role of the mentors.
“We’re all just cogs in the wheel” he said of his fellow selectors. “That’s what it’s all about.”
That said, they have worked hard assembling a team which has steadily improved with each performance.
“Every team is different,” he said. “It’s very hard to compare sides really, but at the start of every year we look for lads who have a bit of character, lads who are willing to work hard and we try to blend a team from that.
“We tried to do that in the Leinster League (they reached the final, where they were beaten by the CBS). Hopefully, as the championship goes on, if you’re lucky enough to progress, you have a chance to get the mix right.
“That’s what we do every year,” he said by way of explaining the mentors’ role. “It’s a great privilege for us to be involved - you have some very good players and potentially some Kilkenny senior players there. It’s great to be there to see them at such an early stage in their career.”
And it keeps them coming back for more.
“Of course,” he said with a smile. “It’s my passion too.”
With a 13-point safely secured by half-time Kieran’s seemed out of sight in the semi-final. St Brigid’s tried their best to get back into the game, raising their supporters’ spirits with some points from Conor Molloy (0-3) and Ronan Glennon, before Dylan Towolawi blasted the sliotar to the net in the 46th minute, but Kieran’s weren’t about to let them back into the game.
A barrage of late scores flowed from the Kilkenny school, with Eoghan Moylan (0-2), Ciaran Brennan and Daithi Barron leading the way. It got even better when Brennan skinned his marker and drilled home a second Kieran’s goal from close range in the 53rd minute, before Adrian Mullen completed the rout with a blistering shot that rocketed to the net little over 60 seconds later.
SCORERS: St Kieran’s College - Adrian Mullen (2-9, 0-5 frees); Ciaran Brennan (1-2); Eoghan Moylan (0-4); Daithi Barron (0-3); Ted Drea (0-1). St Brigid’s Loughrea - Dylan Towolawi (1-2); Conor Molloy (0-4, 0-2 frees); Damian McGlynn, Ronan Glennon, Donal Mannion (0-1 each).
Paths to the final
St Kieran’s 0-14, Borris VS 1-9.
St Kieran’s 1-18, St Peter’s Wexford 1-7.
St Kieran’s 1-14, CBS Kilkenny 0-13.
Harty Cup last 16
Our Lady’s Templemore 6-27, Árdscoil Bandon 0-3.
Harty Cup quarter-final
Our Lady’s 3-14, CBS Thurles 1-10.
Harty Cup semi-final
Our Lady’s 1-15, CBS Nenagh 0-14.
Harty Cup final
Our Lady’s 2-22, St Colman’s 1-6.
St Kieran’s 3-19, St Brigid’s 1-9.
Our Lady’s 0-24, CBS Kilkenny 2-15.
St Kieran’s College - Dean Mason (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Tommy Ronan (Graigue-Ballycallan), Michael Carey (Young Irelands), Luke Murphy (James Stephens), Ben Lawlor (James Stephens), Martin Keoghan (Tullaroan), Killian Egan (Graigue-Ballycallan), Ted Drea (Young Irelands), Diarmuid Phelan (Danesfort), Evan Shefflin (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Eoghan Moylan (Dicksboro), Eoin O’Shea (O’Loughlin Gaels), Daithi Barron (Thomastown), Ciaran Brennan (Bennettsbridge), Adrian Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Dylan Simpson (Tullaroan), Shane Donohoe (James Stephens), Jesse Roberts (Graigue-Ballycallan), Sean Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan), Brian Staunton (Thomastown), Robert Butler (James Stephens), Padraic Mullen (Danesfort), Paddy Bolger (Clara), Ross Whelan (James Stephens), Shane Dawson (St Lachtain’s), James Phelan (Lisdowney), Ciaran Hogan (Graigue-Ballycallan), David O’Carroll (Lisdowney), Dylan Aylward (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Conor Hackett (Danesfort), Andrew Parsons (James Stephens), Ryan Scanlon (James Stephens), Mark Nolan (Dicksboro), Conor O’Keeffe (Danesfort), James Bergin (Clara).
Selectors: Tom Hogan, Philip Walsh, Michael Walsh.
Our Lady’s Templemore - Eoin Collins, Sean Ryan, Padraig Campion, Eoghan Ryan, Eanna McBride, Paddy Cadell, Aidan O’Meara, Diarmuid Ryan, Jack Ryan, Ray McCormack, Brian McGrath, Jerry Kelly, Andrew Ormond, David O’Shea, Lyndon Fairbrother, Martin O’Connell, Fintan Purcell, Gearoid O’Connor, Shane Doyle, Neil Quinlan, Jason Gilmartin, Delacy Byrne, Matthew O’Sullivan, Thomas O’Farrell, Stephen Nolan, John Ryan, James Devaney, Shane Lowe, Stephen Frend, Aaron Ryan, Rory O’Dwyer, Michael Egan O’Brien, Stefan Maher, Darragh Sweeney, Alexey Harty, Dean Lawlor, Thomas Hennessy.
Selectors: Tom Byrnes, Noel Fogarty.