If that victory required painstaking effort, then the Limerick school’s second crown arrived after a leisurely stroll in yesterday’s decider in the Gaelic Grounds.
The pre-match suspicions that Árd Scoil Rís had done the hard work in the earlier rounds, particularly when defeating St Flannan’s in the semi-final, came to pass as they crushed Charleville CBS by a whopping 25 points.
Árd Scoil Rís were too strong, powerful and slick for Charleville, who endured a chastening experience in their first decider since 1939. In the Árd Scoil Rís camp afterwards there was more satisfaction than elation, yet manager Niall Moran still savoured this triumph.
“The first one is always going to be very special, particularly given the circumstances of winning it after three games. But this is still special. The way today’s game was won was a bit of an anti-climax, but we won the quarter-final and semi-final in enthralling games. We’ve beaten Colman’s, Thurles and Flannan’s along the way, all schools with big history in the Harty. But for a school the size of Charleville to get to an All-Ireland final is an enormous achievement. I just feel sorry for them that they didn’t perform what they are capable to (today).”
Moran revealed afterwards that Árd Scoil Rís had pinpointed the start of the game as a key period as they sought to unnerve an inexperienced Charleville outfit. They succeeded in style by putting the sliothar in the back of the net within 40 seconds. Kevin O’Brien did the spadework as he cut through the defence and offloaded to corner-forward colleague John Fitzgibbon who finished with aplomb. That set the tone and despite Pa O’Callaghan notching a beautiful point to get Charleville off the mark three minutes later, this exceptional Árd Scoil Rís team began to exert their dominance.
The foundations were laid by defensive stalwarts Barry O’Connell, Alan Dempsey and Declan Hannon, while Jamie Shanahan buzzed around midfield to good effect. Centre-forward Shane Dowling ruthlessly punished Charleville indiscretions by converting placed balls. Inside their full-forward line of O’Brien, Oisin Hickey and Fitzgibbon were in lethal form with their sharp pace and touch creating plenty scoring opportunities.
The Charleville backline were overwhelmed as Árd Scoil Rís incessantly rained long deliveries down on top of them and by the 29th minute mark, they trailed 1-11 to 0-1. Then Árd Scoil Rís pounced for their second goal of the game with Fitzgibbon lofting a ball in his direction from the wing that O’Brien finished to the net at the second attempt. Indeed Charleville’s situation could have been more perilous but for an outstanding block by goalkeeper TJ Garvey before half-time from Dowling.
But the destination of the silverware was already assured by the break when Árd Scoil Rís lead 2-11 to 0-2. The second-half was largely academic although substitute Jack Kelleher had a vibrant cameo by landing 0-2 and Hickey grabbed the goal his performance deserved in the 54th minute. David Reidy and Pa O’Callaghan kept fighting but manager Timmy O’Callaghan accepted that they collided with vastly superior opponents.
“They’re an outstanding hurling team. We knew we’d have to get a good start but unfortunately they hit the ground running. We wish them well and hope they’ll go onto win the All-Ireland. They’re a top-class team and it’ll be very hard for us now to pick it up for the All-Ireland quarter-final.”
Árd Scoil Rís are eyeing bigger prizes. They crave glory on the national stage and with 10 of last year’s team, their hopes of achieving that are clearly promising. Yet Moran cautioned against runaway ambitions given the forces from other provinces.
“We will have major challenges ahead because there are two very good Kilkenny sides and a Galway side still involved. It’s been 1967 since a Limerick school won an All-Ireland colleges title so it’s going to take a hell of a lot of hard work. We’ll enjoy tonight and we’ll take it from there then.”
Scorers for Árd Scoil Rís: J Fitzgibbon 1-2; S Dowling 0-5 (four frees, one ‘65); O Hickey 1-1; K O’Brien 1-0; J Shanahan 0-3 (two frees); A Dempsey, J Kelleher 0-2 each; M Ryan, D Hannon, M Carmody, B O’Connor 0-1 each.
Scorers for Charleville CBS: P O’Callaghan 0-3 (two frees).
ÁRD SCOIL RÍS: PJ Hall (Adare); K Lynch (Patrickswell), B O’Connell (Kildimo), D Maloney (Meelick); A Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh), D Hannon (Adare), M Moroney (Parteen); M Ryan (Na Piarsaigh), J Shanahan (Sixmilebridge); M Carmody (Patrickswell), S Dowling (Na Piarsaigh), B O’Connor (Croagh); K O’Brien (Patrickswell), O Hickey (Meelick), J Fitzgibbon (Adare).
Subs: C Keogh (Na Piarsaigh) for Dowling (inj) (38), J Kelleher (Patrickswell) for Fitzgibbon (44), J Hannon (Adare) for Lynch (49), C Lynch (Patrickswell) for Carmody (50), F Carey (Crecora) for O’Connor (53).
CHARLEVILLE CBS: TJ Garvey (Ballyhea); S Butler (Charleville), J Madigan (Charleville), J Walsh (Charleville); A Dennehy (Charleville), D Reidy (Dromin/Athlacca), C Twomey (Newtownshandrum); D Sheehy (Effin), M O’Loughlin (Kilmallock); T Rea (Effin), M Kavanagh (Charleville), J Morrissey (Ballyhea); P O’Callaghan (Ballyhea), J O’Brien (Charleville), D Copps (Ballyhea).
Subs: G Kelleher (Charleville) for Butler (half-time), J McCarthy (Ballyhea) for Morrissey (half-time).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).