Nenagh’s Donegal style hurling plan ends St Kieran’s dream

St Joseph’s CBS 0-17

St Joseph’s CBS 0-17

St Kieran’s College 0-14

THE alluring dream of the All-Ireland hat trick was literally run into the ground when a hungry, fiercely determined and well versed St Joseph’s CBS, Nenagh, bettered the champions of the past two seasons, St Kieran’s College in a physically demanding colleges senior hurling Roinn A semi-final.

St Joseph’s played a hard running and possession game that had similarities to Donegal’s much maligned style in the senior football championship last season, but boy, did Nenagh play it well and execute it to perfection as they all but ran the champions into submission in The Ragg on Saturday.

The contest was alive and the ticket into the final against Kilkenny CBS on Saturday week in Thurles was up for grabs with 11 minutes remaining when the teams were locked together at 0-11 each, the tenth time they had been on a par up to that.

Called back

The next two scores fell to Joseph’s, or to be absolutely correct, their 14-point hero and captain, Jason Forde. From there to the finish the pressure mounted and mounted on defiant St Kieran’s and slowly but surely their grip on the championship was loosened.

Three times during the closing seven minutes St Joseph’s edged two points clear. Three times they were called back to the minimum, but when marathon man Tadgh Gallagher placed Forde for a score and then Paudie Fogarty clipped over another in injury-time it was all over for the Kilkenny lads.

Kieran’s have faced and conquered many challenges during their All-Ireland winning seasons, but the challenged mounted by St Joseph’s was very different, if not unique.

The winners never played less than seven defenders. A Kieran’s player in attack never went for a ball but he had three, if not four opponents around him. On a few occasions during the second half I counted Joseph’s had just two players in the opposing half.

However, when they gained possession in their own half they broke fast together, played a short passing game and worked openings by probing or pressurised the opposition into committing fouls. One fully expected the exertions of the game to take its toll on the players.

It didn’t, and they executed it with such diligence and tight discipline that you couldn’t but admire them.

Jason Forde wasn’t only a stand out player because he scored so much. He was a great ball winner, top rate striker and although wearing No. 6 on his back he appeared capable of playing anywhere. The zippy Tadhg Gallagher was my next top performer at wing-forward. He isn’t a finisher, but he is a maker of space, a creator of chances and he executed his role to perfection.

Fluid, near shapeless game

Jack Flaherty, Eddie Hynes, Sean Geaney and Kevin Gubbins were other high achievers. Kieran’s, who have never really clicked in the championship, couldn’t come to grips with their opponents’ fluid, near shapeless game and they laboured throughout. They had a player sent off with little time remaining, but by then the game was going away from them.

The trend for an even first half was set when Forde and Michael Donnelly, following a foul on Thomas O’Hanrahan, traded points. The teams got as far at 0-3 each before Kieran’s got a chance in front. Ciaran Prendergast stole the ball off an opponent and skipped through a tackle before shooting a point.

Forde, who claimed all the winners scores during this half from frees, equalised. It was score for score to the break, which was reached at 0-7 each.

St Kieran’s opened the second half smartly, Diarmuid Cody making a break and creating an opening for Peter Kenneally to have a shot at goal. The ’keeper saved, but a foul was committed. Aidan Cleere pointed.

However, in the 32nd minute Nenagh nearly grabbed a goal. Gallagher charged up the left wing, and fired in a vicious shot with goalie Noel Kehoe saved. The ball popped loose, but the in-rushing Conor Delaney failed to get a touch from no more than a few feet that would have resulted in a big score.

Anyway, the game wore on; the teams hitting 0-8, 0-9 and 0-11 together. In the 50th minute Jack Loughnane created the opening for Forde to shoot a point from 50-metres. His next effort was after a free fell short and a rash clearance presented him with possession again (0-13 to 0-11).

The better team

Joseph’s were the better team, but they were wasting chances (7 wides against one in the second half). Forde missed the target with their next chance. Kieran’s hit back for a free from Cleere after O’Hanrahan had been tripped.

For the next free against them Kieran’s had a man dismissed. Forde pointed. Five minutes remained. A Michael Donnelly point from a big distance had the divide back to the minimum again.

Ford and James Maher swopped points after that before the still strong running Gallagher placed Paudie Fogarty for a point, the full-forward also landing the last score seconds later.

It was a brave defence by St Kieran’s, but they never really came to grips with their opponents hard, direct running game. Scorers: St Joseph’s CBS – Jason Forde (0-14, 11 frees); Paudie Fogarty (0-2); Killian Gleeson (0-1). St Kieran’s College – Aidan Cleere (0-8, frees); Michael Donnelly (0-4, two frees); Ciaran Prendergast, James Maher (0-1 each).

St Kieran’s College – Noel Kehoe (Clara); Robert O’Hanrahan (Thomastown), Robert Lennon, capt (Bennettsbridge), David Hennessy (James Stephens); Enda Morrissey (Bennettsbridge), Emmet Byrne (Young Irelands), Cormac Wafer (Bennettsbridge); Michael Donnelly (Thomastown), Jack McGrath (James Stephens); Diarmuid Cody (James Stephens), Peter Kenneally (Dunnamaggin), Aidan Cleere (Bennettsbridge); Chris Bolger (Clara), Thomas O’Hanrahan (Thomastown), Ciaran Prendergast (Clara). Subs – David Burke for C. Bolger; James Maher for D. Hennessy.

St Joseph’s CBS – W. Power, D. Quinn, K. Gubbins, S. Cleary, E. Hynes, J. Flaherty, D. Peters, J. Loughnane, S. Geaney, T. Gallagher, S. O’Brien, K. Gleeson, C. Delaney, J. Forde (capt), S. Cleary. Sub – P. Fogarty for C. Delaney.

Referee – A. Stapleton (Laois).