It was a roller coaster ride, but an utterly defiant CBS keep the big dream alive

Kilkenny CBS 2-12

Kilkenny CBS 2-12

Coláisti na nDeise 1-12

(after extra-time)

The brave warriors from Kilkenny CBS returned to Walsh Park - the scene of their greatest achievement in colleges hurling where they won their one and only All-Ireland title in 1981 - and while there was no gold to be won this time they turned in a 24-carat performance to add to their glittering store of wonderful memories in sport.

This All-Ireland colleges senior hurling (Roinn A) quarter-final against Harty Cup champions, Coláisti na nDeise, on Saturday turned into a roller coaster ride for the Kilkenny lads.

Initially the winners threatened to run away with the game; subsequently they got a view of death’s door but in the end they stormed through to snatch the ticket into the semi-finals this Saturday against Portumna Community School in The Ragg (2pm).

“It was pure heart and a lot of good hurling that dragged us through,” admitted thrilled CBS team manager, Seamus Dwyer afterwards. “The players have it all in abundance. The attitude, the work all year from the whole panel, has been fantastic.”

He said that considering the quick turn around from the disappointment of the Leinster final the previous week, the response from the players was magnificent.

“After we lost the Leinster final we set our aim on winning the All-Ireland,” Mr Dwyer added. “That dream is still alive. The players kept it alive.

“We started well. In some ways we should have been out of sight at half-time. We missed a lot of chances. It was similar enough to the Leinster final. We got out with a win, though. That is what we came to do.

Players made it happen

“The players just would not give in. The work my colleague Matt Ruth has done with the players in the gym, and all the physical work, paid off. We haven’t been getting the breaks up to this, but we got some this time.

“To be fair to the players, they made this happen through hard work. We set out our stall every day to work as hard as we can. The breaks will come if you do that. The players are shattered after the effort.

“They couldn’t have given any more. They will be up and ready again next weekend. It is no use putting in a performance like that if you don’t build on it. Semi-finals are notoriously difficult to get through, but the players will be ready.”

The Deise boys, who were taller and physically stronger in many sectors, most have thought they were in for it when they ended up 1-3 to no score behind after six minutes. The breeze backed CBS didn’t only hit the ground running, they were galloping.

On two minutes Shane Cuddihy had a shot taken off the line, and when the ball was knocked out for a 65 Owen McGrath pointed. Cuddihy then forced a great save from ’keeper, Eoin Kearns at the expense of a 65. The reward was another point for McGrath.

In the sixth minute Eoin Fennelly and Kevin Kenny worked well on the left wing, and after testing the ’keeper again, Mason Clifford clipped the loose ball into the net from eight metres on the right.

The sun was shining, but the CBS nearly out-shone it. They were flying, using the ball quickly and smartly.

McGrath was wonderful at centre-back, already having made two spectacular catches. Evan Cody right behind him was mighty too. Robbie Fitzpatrick was hurling brilliantly, reading situations very well. And then in the 7th minute ’keeper, Darragh Holohan stood up to the first of many tests by bring off a classy save from a Cathal Curran pile-driver.

The Deise eventually opened their account in the 15th minute. Ryan Donnelly shot a lovely point from 45-metres on the stand side. Mason Clifford, what a hurler, what a battler, posted a reply in the 20th minute.

Not flattered

When half-time was reached the CBS were not at all flattered by a lead of 1-3 to 0-3. While the blast of their early play had subsided a little, their finishing was poor. The big black mark against them was the posting of nine wides.

For yours truly, a poser was a free count of 9-3 against the CBS. That rose to 19-10 by the end of the hour. The figures didn’t at all reflect the relative discipline of the teams. The finishing figures, according to my calculations, were 26-15.

I will make no further comment other than to say I couldn’t understand many of the calls, or the interpretation of situations in tackles.

Anyway, the Deise were explosive after the restart. Colin Dunford took over midfield, and with his well aimed deliveries to the good hurling Patrick Curran at top of the left, they threatened to break the opposition. Free taker Cathal Curran picked off three scores to level by the 36th minute (1-3 to 0-6).

They losers drove on. The best position attained was in the 43rd minute when they showed 1-7 to 1-3 in front. The CBS looked troubled. Their touch had deserted them. Their shape had become ragged.

A point from a free on midfield by Owen McGrath came as a relief. A like effort from driving captain, Jack Langton lifted spirits further. Although the Deise hit back for a point from Cathal Curran, the break the CBS needed badly arrived in the 53rd minute.

CBS stood tall and proud

Owen McGrath was fouled when charging forward. His effort from a free from 55-metres in front of goal saw the ball end up in the top left corner of the net. Deise cried ‘square ball’. Lucky or not, the CBS were back level (2-5 to 1-8).

The closing minutes were full of raw effort, near misses and absolute commitment by both teams. Four points were shared equally.

The CBS might have stolen it at the death when J.P. Treacy fielded a great ball right in front of the losers’ goal. A call that could have gone either way went against him for over carrying the ball after being surrounded by defenders.

Full-time: 2-7 (CBS) to 1-10.

The CBS finished regular time with full-forward, Ciaran Doyle moved to centre-back and the starting No. 6 Owen McGrath in midfield. They resumed in that order, with a host of other team alterations, including the introduction of junior star, Robbie Buckley. Picking the team for the semi is going to be some job.

All the changes worked, you see. The CBS opened backed by the breeze. Scores from Treacy, McGrath after a foul on Buckley, and a debatable one from McGrath on the left wing – the ball could have been wide - carried them into an interval lead of 2-11 to 1-10 in extra-time.

The CBS resumed with a point from Buckley two minutes after the turn, after he waltzed around his opponent. It was their last score.

It was to be a long eight minute wait to the final whistle.

The CBS were on the back foot, but the heart, the determination in the effort – by now they had committed 21 players to the fray – was amazing. The CBS conceded two points, one from play to Kieran Power and the other via a free to Cathal Curran.

The Cats finished defending their line, again in the face of some puzzling calls by the match official. To a man they stood tall and proud. Their defiance was wonderful. Heroes one and all!

Scorers: Kilkenny CBS – Owen McGrath (1-5, 1-2 frees, two points 65s’); Mason Clifford (1-2); Jack Langton, Kevin Kenny, J.P. Treacy, Danny Bolger, Robbie Buckley (0-1 each). Colaisti na nDeise – Cathal Curran (0-6, frees); Ryan Donnelly (0-3, one free); Patrick Curran (1-0); Colin Dunford, Michael Harney, Kieran Power (0-1 each).

Kilkenny CBS – Darragh Holohan (Dicksboro), Shane Cassin (Clara), Evan Cody (Dicksboro), Cathal McGrath (John Lockes), Niall Mullins (James Stephens), Owen McGrath (John Lockes), Robbie Fitzpatrick Dicksboro), Darragh Sheehan (Danesfort), Jack Langton, capt (Clara), Kevin Kenny (Dicksboro), Mason Clifford (Dicksboro), Eoin Fennelly (Dicksboro), Shane Cuddihy (Tullaroan), Ciaran Doyle (Barrow Rangers), Philly Campion (St Lachtain’s). Subs – Paul Delahanty (Young Irelands) for P. Campion 19th min; Danny Bolger (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Clifford (inj) 32nd min; Clifford for E. Fennelly 41st min; Luke Scanlon (James Stephens) for D. Sheehan 53rde min; Robbie Buckley (O’Loughlin Gaels) for Delahanty start of extra-time; Stephen Tynan (Dicksboro) for Clifford.

Colaistie-na-nDeise – E. Kearns, K. Looby, T. Tobin, S. O’Donovan, E. Collins, T. Devine, T. Burke, C. Dunford, Cormac Curran, Cathal Curran, M. Harney, R. Donnelly, M. Kiely, K. Power, P. Curran. Subs – K. Sheehan for K. Looby; K. Daly for M. Kiely; M. Kiely for P. Curran; P. Curran for R. Donnelly.

Frees – Kilkenny CBS 10 (3 and 7), et 5 (3 and 2) 15; Coláisti na nDeise 19 (9 and 10); et 7 (1 and 6) 26.

Wides – Kilkenny CBS 11 (9 and 2); Coláisti na nDeise 8 (3 and 5).

Referee – P. O’Dwyer (Carlow).