Cats are gunning for glory

a PLAN to out-smart a plan! That is what deep thinking Kilkenny CBS will be striving to implement when they go for hurling gold in Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday.

a PLAN to out-smart a plan! That is what deep thinking Kilkenny CBS will be striving to implement when they go for hurling gold in Semple Stadium, Thurles on Saturday.

The James Street boys will be chasing what would be their second win in the All-Ireland colleges senior hurling championship final when they face finely tuned St Joseph’s CBS, Nenagh, conquerors of champions of the past two season, St Kieran’s College in the semis.

The Tipp boys turned in a tiptop performance when out manoeuvring Kieran’s with a hard running, keep possession game plan that often saw them employ 13 players behind the ball. This has been Nenagh’s approach throughout the championship, and they are sure to employ the tactic as they chase what would be their first title.

How to create space against a packed defence and then contain Nenagh when they break at speed is the doubled edged challenge that faces a young and hungry Kilkenny side that has grown in stature as the competition has progressed.

“We have a great bunch of lads,” said CBS manager, Seamus Dywer, who has guided the team with Kilkenny player, Matthew Ruth, Niall Sheehan and school Principal, Tom Clarke, a Tipperary man who will be hoping to spoil the party on a team from his own county.

The age profile of the Noreside would be younger than the opposition, and they will concede in the physical stakes too, but they have a wealth of hurling talent, a hunger and discipline about them that has served the school well during a campaign that has been a slow burn.

Didn’t set scene alight

By their own admission, the CBS didn’t set the scene alight in the Leinster League. They failed to make the closing stages, but their concentration there was on getting a shape to their team. On top of that, they rested their junior players who captured the Leinster title after a rigorous campaign, but they have hit full stride in recent times.

Kieran’s enjoyed a slice of lucky when beating their city neighbours in the Leinster championship final. The CBS bounced back smartly, and seven days later scored a super win over Harty Cup champions, Colaisti-na-nDeise, in a quarter-final that needed extra-time to produce a winner.

Evan Cody, Owen McGrath, Robbie Fitzpatrick, Kevin Kenny, Ciaran Doyle, Mason Clifford and driving captain, Jack Langton lived dangerously at times that afternoon in Walsh Park, but when raw course was needed in the finishing straight the CBS lads had it in abundance.

They followed up that stirring showing with a good if less than spectacular win over Portumna Community School in the All-Ireland semi-final to get back into the decider for the first time since 2007 when they were beaten by Waterford De La Salle. Their lone success was registered way back in 1981.

Nenagh’s stand out player is captain, Jason Forde, who scord 0-14 of their total of 0-17 against Kieran’s. Eleven of his scores were from frees. He wore the No. 6 jersey that day but started at full-forward. He was captain of the Tipp minor hurling team last year.

Defend and attack

Of course, numbers and positions mean very little to Nenagh, who play a very fluid game. The players are expected to defend and attack at a unit. No. 10 Tadhg Gallagher typified their approach. He runs at defence, draws the cover and then pops out possessiosn to Forde. They are leathal combination, with Gallagher the cover draw when they charge forward.

They reached the final without first choice full-back, Niall Gleeson, who ruptured knee ligaments in the drawn Munster semi-final against Thurles. He would have been on the Tipp minor panel this year. Jack Peters missed the St Kieran’s match with a knee injury, but he will be back for Saturday and will probably slot in at centre-back.

Kevin Gubbins, who wore No. 27 the last day, slotted in nicly at full-back while Sean Geaney (he wore No. 26), who only joined the panel after Christmas, has proved to be a powerhouse at midfield.

St Joseph’s are a very solid unit, and Forde has the class to punish any team that commits fouls within 80 metres range of goal.

Kilkenny CBS have a nice mix in their first XV, and they have a useful bench too. Their players are versatile too, as was proven when regular full-forward, Ciaran Doyle finished the quarter-final at centre-back while Owen McGrath moved from that position into midfield.

Yet the effectiveness of the team didn’t suffer one iota. If anything, what could only be described as daring switches helped regenerate the energy levels at a crucial time.

The Noresiders have a great chance. Nenagh are good, but these Kilkenny lads, many of whom have Feile-na-nGael Division I winners medals in their collection, fear no one.

“We are going to Thurles to win,” was the straight and simple message from manager Seamus Dwyer.

Nothing more can be added!