Double chasing Causeway on crest of a wave

IT may have gone unnoticed by most people outside the county, but an All-Ireland hurling championship title found its way to Kerry last weekend when Causeway Comprehensive School collected the Vocational junior title in style.

That victory gave the school back-to-back national titles in the grade, and with their seniors hot on the trail of provincial honours this afternoon against Hazelwood College, Dromcollogher in Abbeyfeale, it’s fair to say hurling is thriving in North Kerry.

In a county where football is a religion, the heroics of Causeway is a great sense of satisfaction for those few diehards promoting hurling.

Maurice Leahy, who is the Hurling Development Officer in North Kerry, has done wonders for the game. So too has Causeway teachers Willie Dowling and John Joe Delaney who are the driving forces behind the school’s phenomenal rise to prominence.

Dowling admitted: “Winning the junior All-Ireland title last week for the second year in a row was a magnificent achievement. Winning last year, our first at this level was very special, but to put back to back titles together is beyond my wildest dreams.

“When you consider we beat a Kilkenny school in the All-Ireland semi-final and Loughrea (Galway) you realise how great the achievement was. The reception we received when we got back home was incredible and proves that there is a great passion for hurling in the county.

Dowling admits the role of former county boss has been crucial to their success.

He explained: “Pupils coming into the school are getting the proper coaching and it shows. In former years we used to have 10 very good seniors and would struggle for the next five. Now we have 20 very good players any one of whom could step into the team and do a job for us. That is the big difference between now and say 10 years ago.

“We are now going for a Munster hurling double with seven of the junior team looking for a senior medal to add their collection.”

The decision to affiliate a senior hurling team in this year’s Dr Harty Cup has also play a significant role in Causeway’s success.

The team played under the name Kerry Colleges but was backboned by Causeway players.

They caused quite a stir, losing to St. Flannan’s, beating Waterford Colleges and led former champions DLS Waterford by two points only to concede a late goal.

“That was a great experience for our lads in particular,” said Dowling. “It gave them a taste of Harty Cup hurling and showed that they could compete with the elite. However that was way back last November.

“The Kerry minors provided us with a few challenge games and the junior run in their championship kept our players fairly active. We’ve trained every Sunday morning since Christmas and always had a full squad. Facilities have improved greatly in the school. Back in February we opened a hurling wall on astro turf which has allowed us to train irrespective of the weather. Whatever the outcome of this final, both schools will advance to the All-Ireland series as there is no team in Ulster, but we want to go forward as champions.”

But he is not underestimating the task ahead. “Having seen Hazelwood in their semi-final, they are going to be very difficult opponents. Hurling is making great strides in Limerick at colleges level and we’ll have to be at our very best to succeed.”

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