Champions St Kieran’s defeated Charleville CBS by 12 points on Saturday in a routine semi-final but immediately insisted Ardscoil Rís will start as favourites to win the Croke Cup next Saturday week.
“The Harty Cup is big in Munster and when you win a Harty Cup by that much, you have to be favourites,” said St Kieran’s joint-manager Philip Walsh.
At the end of February, Ardscoil Rís walloped Charleville by 25 points in the Harty final.
Charleville showed admirable grit as they regrouped to defeat Presentation College, Athenry in the All-Ireland quarter-final and left Tipperary’s Sean Treacy Park with their heads held high.
In truth, Kieran’s were never troubled but with two minutes of normal time remaining, the Kilkenny kingpins led by just seven points before a late scoring burst added some gloss.
Searching for a line of form, there are some parallels to be the drawn between the manner of the St Kieran’s victory over Charleville and the ruthless manner in which Ardscoil Rís dispensed with the challenge of the Cork side.
St Kieran’s never had to get out of second gear and while they picked off some nice scores, their hurling was patchy.
The Kilkenny side will improve and they know they have to against an Ardscoil Rís team hell-bent on revenge for last year’s Croke Cup final defeat.
Then, they led by five points with 12 minutes remaining before conceding 1-5 without reply down the home stretch. It’s unlikely that will happen again.
“The teams have changed,” said Walsh. “They have a lot of survivors and we have a few but it’s a different year. They are very strong.
“Semi-finals are always difficult. The main thing is to get over them and get into the final. We know we still have a lot of improving to do and that’s a good way to be. 3-10 is decent scoring but St Kieran’s hit 12 poor wides.
“We remember last year we played a semi-final and were lucky to get out of it after extra-time. We never take games for granted. These fellas (Charleville) have beaten Athenry. We didn’t know what they were like. We knew they were better than the Harty Cup final.”
Thomas O’Hanrahan hit two second-half goals – the first 17 seconds after the restart and the second deep in stoppage time – to lead the way in the scoring stakes.
St Kieran’s, who led by 1-7 to 0-3 at half-time, could also afford the luxury of a missed penalty. Michael Donnelly’s effort blocked away in injury time.
Before half-time, John Power, brother of Kilkenny senior ace Richie, hit 1-3 from placed balls before he was replaced with influential midfielder Cillian Buckley.
The game was won by then and with bigger fish to fry, the 2010 All-Ireland minor medallists were sacrificed.
Chareville mustered just four points from play but refused to lose by the cricket score that some had anticipated.
At centre-back, Limerick minor David Reidy stood firm while Ballyhea’s John Morrissey picked off two points from play, one in each half.
But despite their lacklustre showing, pockmarked by poor striking and uncharacteristic fumbling, there was no doubting the superiority of St Kieran’s who march on to meet an Ardscoil Rís team that won’t need much motivating.
Scorers for St Kieran’s: T O’Hanrahan 2-2, J Power 1-3f, M Donnelly 0-2 (1f), J Nolan, M Brennan and H O’Neill 0-1 each.
Scorers for Charleville CBS: J Morrissey, D Reidy (1f, 1 65) 0-2 each, M Kavanagh (f), D Copps and P O’Callaghan 0-1 each.
ST KIERAN’S: S Johnston; L Hickey, W Phelan, R O’Hanrahan; C O’Neill, P O’Carroll, E Morrissey; P Butler, C Buckley; J Power, D Cody, M Donnelly; J Nolan, M Brennan, T O’Hanrahan.
Subs: R Reid for Morrissey (ht), K Phelan for Buckley (50), D Burke for Power (50), H O’Neill for Nolan (58).
CHARLEVILLE CBS: TJ Garvey; S Butler, D McCarthy, T Rea; C Twomey, D Reidy, A Dennehy; M Kavanagh, J Morrissey; D Sheehy, P O’Callaghan, G Kelleher; D Copps, J Madigan, J O’Brien.
Referee: P Casey (Waterford).