Speculation is that Saturday’s All-Ireland colleges junior hurling final could be the last at this level.
That would be a pity, a real pity, because even if the competition is relatively new, it forms part of an important pathway into even bigger things for young players in Gaelic games.
Our experience would be that colleges competitions - we refer to hurling because it is the game we have most experience of - are not particularly well organised.
Things in the province are not too bad, although they would be far from the ideal.
However, once the competitions move on to the All-Ireland series, oh my, the organisation of things can sometimes be downright poor.
Consequently, the talk that the junior All-Ireland series might be coming to an end doesn’t surprise, but it does disappoint, and hugely.
Kilkenny powerhouse, St Kieran’s College have written, and re-written, many a hurling record in the past.
If Saturday’s final in St Rynagh’s GAA grounds, Banagher (1pm) is to be the last at junior level, how appropriate that St Kieran’s are involved.
In the opposite corner will be defending champions, Presentation College, Athenry (Galway), who dominated the competition last season when they beat Thurles CBS by a sizeable 18 points in the final.
The relevance of that result in the context of Saturday’s showdown is that Thurles had handed out a big beating to St Kieran’s in the semi-final.
Athenry will have a fair number of that squad, and a few Galway minors too in action, so the Noresiders can expect the going to be tough.
“We face a huge task. We have seen Athenry play twice, and they are very good,” insisted St Kieran’s team official and Kilkenny camogie team manager, Brian Dowling.
It is five weeks since St Kieran’s played last. That was in what was a quality Leinster final against Good Counsel (New Ross).
They won well, by 2-21 to 0-16, to turn over an 11 point defeat by ’Counsel only weeks earlier.
While St Kieran’s have a good hurling and physically strong squad, the Good Counsel experiences could yet turn out to be invaluable.
“We were left scratching our heads after that,” said Mr Dowling when recalling the loss against ’Counsel.
“We changed the team around for the final, and everything worked, plus we upped our work-rate.
“We were blessed that we had a second chance in Leinster. Now the intention is to turn a bad experience into a winning one.”
The defending champions enjoyed a good campaign when winning the Galway championship, and they accounted for St Colman’s, Fermoy in the semi-final.
St Kieran’s missed out on the benefits of playing a semi-final, simply because there was no one to play.
They have pushed themselves on the training field, and a work-out against the preliminary Kilkenny minor hurling squad for 2020 helped the players to try and find the heightened pace needed for the national final.
“The players are looking forward to the final,” Mr Dowling assured.
“They might never get another chance to play in an All-Ireland final, so they have to make the best of this opportunity.”
Good news for St Kieran’s is that they have no injury worries.
“We are ready to go,” the team official assured.
St Kieran’s College panel - Alan Dunphy (Lisdowney), Paddy Langton, capt (Young Irelands), Adam O’Connor (James Stephens), Sean Moore (Carrickshock), Dara Mason (Shamrocks), Joe Fitzpatrick (Dunnamaggin), Bill Hughes (Bennettsbridge), Killian Doyle (Emeralds), Conor Cody (Clara), Padraig Lennon (Carrickshock), Naoise Dempsey (Thomastown), Padraig Naddy (Young Irelands), Harry Shine (Dicksboro), Killian Carey (Young Irelands), Nick Doheny (Dicksboro), Peter Holohan (Ballyragget), Ben Whitty (Danesfort), Alex Sheridan (O’Loughlin’s), James Carroll (Dicksboro), Johnny Keane (Dicksboro), Jimmy O’Neill (Dunnamaggin), Jimmy Lennon (Young Irelands), Killian Corcoran (Shamrocks), Tommy Phelan (Young Irelands), Shane Glynn (James Stephens), Eamon Og Holland (Tullaroan), Jack Butler (Graigue Ballycallan), Mikey Raggett (Dicksboro), Oisin O’Connor (Conahy Shamrocks), Cian Moore (Thomastown), Richie McEvoy (Lisdowney), Billy Dowling (Graigue-Ballycallan), Charlie Delahunty (Dicksboro), Sean Keegan (Dicksboro), Eibhin McEvoy (Lisdowney), Paul Mulligan (Tullaroan).
Team officials - Richie Ruth and Brian Dowling.
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