Champions Kilkenny CBS marched their way into the Leinster Colleges league final, but had to quicken their step to get to the finish line first.
A Niall Mullins goal nine minutes from time proved decisive as the city side wrestled the result from Good Counsel at a chilly Thomastown.
Ironically, the strike came just seconds after the Wexford school could have put the game to bed themselves.
Racing on to Shane Ryan’s zipped pass up the right wing Cian O’Donoghue gathered possession and sent a teasing ball across the face of goal towards Sean Ryan, but his shot was stopped in a crowded goalmouth.
Within seconds, play was speeding towards the other end. Kevin Galvin’s long clearance was seized upon by CBS sub Robbie Murphy, who set off down the line before picking out Niall Mullins in the centre.
The full-forward didn’t seem to get a full strike on the sliotar, but did enough to send it past netminder Kevin Doyle and fashion a four-point lead (1-8 to 0-7) for his side that they would never lose.
While both sides took some time to get into the game (Cian O’Donoghue’s free after 30 seconds was the only score for nine minutes) ’Counsel got to grips with things that bit quicker.
The CBS proved wayward with their early shooting, and had to bring corner-forward Robbie Buckley back into midfield to help win more possession.
Gradually, through the work of Buckley, midfielder Corey Cahill and centre-back Gary Bryan, they stepped up the pace. Points from J.P. Treacy (free) and Niall Mullins edged them in front by the 11th minute, but not for long. Liam Hennessy returned a Darragh Holohan puck-out for a point, before O’Donoghue tacked on a long range free.
The CBS weren’t out of the game yet, but couldn’t catch a break. Paul Delahunty saw his close range shot get blocked, while J.P. Treacy’s follow-up flashed agonisingly wide of the far post.
Having trailed by a point at half-time (0-4 to 0-3), the introduction of Andrew Gaffney saw the CBS step up the pace after the restart.
Assuming free-taking duties, Gaffney rattled off five points inside 18 minutes, a run that saw the CBS hold a slender lead going into the final stages.
Good Counsel stayed close, largely through Liam Hennessy (0-2), but struggled to replicate their first half form.
Once Mullins netted the goal Good Counsel were sunk. CBS sub Robbie Murphy made sure of the win, tacking on an insurance point that saw the Kilkenny side hold out, giving them strength to withstand a late spell of strong Counsel pressure in the closing stages.
Kilkenny CBS - Darragh Holohan. Kevin Galvin, Evan Cody, Diarmuid Doheny, Marc Drennan, Gary Bryan, Jamie Byrne, Corey Cahill, Ross Butler, Chris Kavanagh, Cathal McGrath, J.P. Treacy (0-2, frees), Robbie Buckley, Niall Mullins (1-1), Paul Delahunty. Subs: Jim Dollard, Andrew Gaffney (0-5, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65), Robbie Murphy (0-1), Conor Doheny.
Good Counsel - Kevin Doyle, Darragh Brennan, Donnacha O’Connor, Aaron Diskin, Pat Lyng, Daire Barden, Brian Quigley, Dylan Kehoe, Sean Ryan (0-1, free), Cathal Bolger, Liam Hennessy (0-4), Cian O’Donoghue (0-2, frees), Peter Aspel, Pierce Doyle, Shane Ryan. Subs: Alan Walsh, Stephen O’Gorman.