The window of opportunity swung open for an instant, but individual brilliance slammed it shut and the dream of additional All-Ireland glory died once again for the brave and somewhat unfortunate Kilkenny CBS hurlers, writes John Knox.
It was the 42nd minute in the All-Ireland colleges’ senior hurling final. Lively attacker Kevin Kenny got a run at the Dungarvan Colleges goal at the town end in Semple Stadium. He discharged a bullet from no more than 14 metres on the right.
Goalie Laurence Power matched excellence with excellence, and deflected the ball away to safety.
There and then the CBS lost their best chance of dragged back, and possibly down, a fast, free and easy moving and good hurling Dungarvan team in Thurles on Saturday. Dungarvan Colleges won by 1-12 to 1-7.
From the throw-in it was a hard day at the office for the Noresiders. Way beyond the opening quarter they were still struggling to catch the pace of the game, which made their touch appear off and reactions look somewhat pedestrian.
Yet, by half-time Dungarvan, for all their neat and inventive hurling, had failed to put the game beyond reach when their lead was a far from worrying 1-8 to 1-3.
The CBS had a player dismissed four minutes into the second half, and they looked doomed. Yet, in adversity a true grit spirit emerged.
The losers bravely overcame that setback and powered on to produce their best spell of the entire match. Three scores on the trot at one stage had the divide down to 1-9 to 1-6. Dungarvan were looking unsure, although not rattled.
The middle score in those three points came from a 65 that followed Kenny’s blast and Power’s great save. Had a big score resulted, the divide could have been back to a mere point, and who knows?
To be honest, that was the single moment/segment of the game when Kilkenny CBS looked like they might make up for the disappointment of losing the final to Nenagh CBS last year. For the rest of the match Dungarvan had the swagger of champions, and their first All-Ireland win was well deserved.
This is a royal time for the CBS in terms of players and teams, but successive attempts to add to their single All-Ireland success of 1981 have now ended in heartache. Leinster League and Championship titles have been annexed, but the big one remains elusive.
“We will just have to pick ourselves up and drive on again next year,” was the fighting response from team official, Niall Tyrrell, afterwards.
Dungarvan threatened to over run the opposition during the early stages when they were totally dominant on their own ‘40’ and around midfield. The CBS couldn’t win any ball there, not even their own puck-outs.
However, the Suirsiders shot five wides during the opening nine minutes – they had 14 in all – which meant the excellence of the play of such as Patrick Curran, Darragh Lyons, Tadgh Burke, Kevin Daly, Cormac Curran and Colin Dunford wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard.
They did get 1-3 to 0-1 in front by the 15th minute, and things were looking bad for the struggling losers. A mistake then by the winners goalie gifted CBS attacker, Paddy Cahill possession, and from 12 metres on the right he lashed the ball into the net.
It was a lifeline for the CBS. They were still out-scored by 0-5 to 0-2 before the break, but bearing in mind the difference and misses by Dungarvan – 8 wides in that half – the contest was still open.
Defender sent off
The second half started with the CBS having a defender sent off and Dungarvan being awarded a penalty. The free shot was saved, but the Suirsiders did add a point through Patrick Curran following a foul on Colin Dunford in the 37th minute (1-9 to 1-3).
The winners dropped attackers Michael Harney and Darragh Lyons back deep at times after that, and they surrendered control of the game to the opposition. Paddy Cahill pointed a free. The Kenny effort followed, but J.P. Treacy converted a 65 which resulted from that bout of pressure. Kevin Kenny slapped over a point in the 46th minute.
With the score at 1-9 to 1-6 the pressure was mounting on Dungarvan. A great piece of determined play by Darragh Lyons to win possession before being fouled earned a badly needed point for free taker Patrick Curran (1-10 to 1-6).
The pressure was off? Not really! Shortly afterwards Kevin Kenny was felled by a bad tackle which ended his involvement in the game. The referee’s call was it wasn’t a foul, and play resume with a throw-in. The offender was lucky, very lucky, not to see red.
The CBS never looked like saving the day after that. Season long form would suggest there is more in the team, but on the big day it just didn’t happen, despite the wholehearted efforts of Cathal McGrath, who had a mighty first half, Cory Cahill and Paddy Cahill, on occasions.
Scorers: Dungarvan Colleges – Patrick Curran (0-9, five frees, one 65); Ryan Donnelly (1-0); Colin Dunford (0-2); Michael Harney (0-1). Kilkenny CBS – Paddy Cahill (1-3, points frees); J.P. Treacy (0-2, one 65); Kevin Kenny, Robbie Buckley (0-1 each).
Dungarvan Colleges – Laurence Power, Michael Cronin, Brian Looby, Keelan Looby, Tadgh Burke, Kevin Daly, Tom Devine, Cormac Curran, Colin Dunford, Cristoir Breathnach, Michael Harney, Seamus Keating, Darragh Lyons, Ryan Donnelly, Patrick Curran.
Kilkenny CBS – Darragh Holohan (Dicksboro); Robbie Fitzpatrick, capt (Dicksboro), Evan Cody (Dicksboro), Cathal McGrath (John Lockes); Cory Cahill (Dicksboro), Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Dylan Scott (Dicksboro); Niall Mullins (James Stephens), Gary Kelly (O’Loughlin Gaels); Luke Scanlon (James Stephens), Kevin Kenny (Dicksboro), J.P. Treacy (Young Irelands); Paul Delahunty (Young Irelands), Shane Cuddihy (Tullaroan), Paddy Cahill (Dicksboro). Subs – Robbie Buckley (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Delahunty 44th min; Matthew McWey (James Stephens) for P. Cahill 51st min; James Byrne (James Stephens) for K. Kenny (inj) 54th min.
Referee – Shane Hourigan (Limerick).