AT a time when Limerick hurling is in turmoil, the young hurlers of Ardscoil Rís wrote a glorious chapter in their school’s history yesterday by winning the Dr Harty Cup for the first time at the third attempt at McDonagh Park, Nenagh.
There were a lot of misty eyes in the stand when Ardscoil captain Sean O’Brien accepted the coveted trophy from the chairman of the Munster Council Jim O’Gorman, who lauded both schools on the fare they served up in the three games it took to decide the destination of the title.
There was never much doubt about the outcome this time as Ardscoil Rís led from start to finish, the title destined for Shannonside long before the final whistle.
The winners had heroes all over the field. Declan Hannon added to his growing reputation with another flawless display, this time from centre-back. Mark Carmody, son of Anthony, who was on the losing Limerick CBS team in 1985, never put a foot wrong at corner-back. Niall Kennedy and Mark Ryan lorded it at midfield, while up front, Shane Dowling, Brendan O’Connor and Kevin Downes gave the Thurles defence a torrid time.
On a day when Thurles could never match the intensity of their opponents, only Cathal Carroll, Stephen Maher, Pat Ralph, Mike O’Brien and Aidan McCormack came out of this game with their reputations intact.
While the game never reached the same heights of the drawn marches, nevertheless, there was sufficient good hurling from both teams which kept the 1,733 spectators well entertained. For the third time in a fortnight, Ardscoil showed scant regard for the reputation of their opponents and threw down the gauntlet to the champions from the throw in.
Rock solid in defence, where full-back Eoghan McCarthy and centre-back Hannon were unbeatable, Hannon set the scene for Ardscoil’s ultimate victory with point in the 15th second. And when Aidan McCormack tied the game for the first and only time, another cliffhanger was in the offing.
But Ardscoil weren’t having anything of it this time. Totally on top in most sectors, the Limerick schools superiority was reflected on the scoreboard when the towering Kevin Downes touched home Niall Kennedy’s long delivery for a goal in the second minute.
Thurles were rocked by the ferocity of their opponents’ challenge. Oozing with confidence all over the pitch and hurling with skill and pace, Ardscoil hit a glorious scoring patch which yielded five points in-a-row and they were full value for their 1-7 to 0-2 lead after 20 minutes.
On the ground and in the air Ardscoil were the masters and it came as no surprise when they goaled again in the 27th minute, a shaky Thurles defence, missing the steadying influence of Denis Maher who lined out at wing forward, failed to clear the danger and Brendan O’Connor billowed the net to lead 2-7 to 0-5 coming up to half time.
But serious questions were asked of Ardscoil when Thurles finished the half with four unanswered points which left the Limerick school 2-7 to 0-8 in front at the break, the champions within striking distance.
Thurles resumed the second-half with Denis Maher at midfield but he was a pale shadow of himself due to illness. And if there was any doubt about Ardscoil’s ability to win the game, it was emphatically answered in another magnificent five minute spell. A massive clearance by the magnificent Mark Ryan was plucked out of the air by Kevin Downes and he landed a superb point. That score eased the pressure on Ardscoil and with Downes, majestic at midfield, the Shannonsiders struck for a third goal which killed off the challenge.
There appeared little danger as Mark Ryan drilled the ball goalwards, but a Thurles defender ran across the line of vision of his keeper and the ball nestled in the back of the net to put Ardscoil into a commanding 3-10 to 0-12 lead.
With the scent of victory in their nostrils and their massive support in full voice, Ardscoil played out the remaining minutes in control and they added five unanswered points to set in train unbridled scenes of jubilation.
Scorers for Ardscoil Rís: K. Downes, B. O’Connor 1-2 each; M. Ryan 1-1; D. Hannon, J. Fitzgibbon (0-2 frees) 0-3 each; J Shanahan 0-2; A. Breen, S. Dowling, 0-1 each.
Thurles CBS: M. O’Brien 0-5 (0-3 frees); A. McCormack 0-4 (0-1 free); P. Ralph 0-3; T. Doyle, P. Looby 0-1 each.
ARDSCOIL RÍS: PJ Hall; A. Dempsey, E. McCarthy, M. Carmody; S. O’Brien, D. Hannon, M. Moroney; M. Ryan, N. Kennedy; A. Breen, S. Dowling, B. O’Connor; J Fitzgibbon, K. Downes, J. Shanahan.
Subs: C. Keogh for Dowling (52); K. Keane for Breen (57); D. Shephard for Hall (61).
THURLES CBS: A. Stakelum; S. Maher, C. Carroll, J. Bourke; P. Dunne, C,. Barrett, J. Meagher; P. Ralph, J. Bergin; D. Maher, A, McCormack, M. O’Brien; K. Slattery, D, Ferncombe, T. Doyle.
Subs: C. Hammersley for Bergin (30); P. Looby for Slattery (half-time); C. Treacy for Ferncombe (43); D. Devane for Hammersley (62).
Referee:, D. Kirwin (Cork).
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