On Saturday they assured themselves a chance at atonement when they breezed past the challenge of Castlecomer CS at Templemore. Their post-match satisfaction was spiced further by the news that it will be St Kieran’s, their conquerors last season, who they will be pitted against in Semple Stadium in a fortnight.
“When we came back at the start of the year, our goal was to get to the All-Ireland final again” said manager and Limerick senior hurler Niall Moran.
“Now we can start talking about it. When we come out of Thurles this time, we want All-Ireland medals. For a lot of these lads, they want to finish off a job that they left undone last year.”
Árdscoil Rís had set a high standard in the Dr Harty Cup final when they hammered Charleville CBS by 25 points but the quality of their hurling never dipped here.
They laid firm foundations in the first-half when, backed by a strong wind, they led by a healthy 2-8 to 0-1 at the interval.
From the opening whistle they looked hungry for action with their defence in terrific form. Árdscoil Rís have conceded miserly totals in their last two games and that is a testament to the organisation and resolve of Damian Morrissey, Alan Dempsey and Martin Moroney.
In attack Shane Dowling was his consistent self from placed balls, only missing one, while the lightning speed of Óisín Hickey caused problems at full-forward. Mark Carmody and Brendan O’Connor posed strong scoring threats from their wing-forward positions with O’Connor’s sublime strike to the net proving crucial to breaking Castlecomer’s resistance.
“With 15 minutes gone, we were only three or four points ahead,” said Moran.
“Our hurling wasn’t very fluid and we were going back to some old habits. But thankfully Brendan got the goal and it was an immaculate finish. It made a big difference.”
The second Árdscoil Rís goal arrived five minutes before the break when Hickey cleverly finished to the net after Mark Ryan sent in a fine delivery.
Castlecomer were staring at damage limitation. Or so we thought. They thundered into the second-half action to register five points in quick succession. Charles Dwyer led the fight as he shot four of those scores.
The gap was trimmed to 2-9 to 0-6 but Árdscoil Rís weathered the storm and deprived Castlecomer of any further scores. The influence of Declan Hannon and Dowling grew while Carmody and Hickey were on target up front.
Árdscoil Rís were regularly thwarted in the second-half by sterling work by the Castlecomer defence, who had outstanding performers in Noel Callinan and Ruairi Kinsella. Castlecomer substitute Brendan Brophy twice came close to grabbing the goal that his team desperately needed yet it was Árdscoil Rís substitutes Jack Kelliher and Cian Lynch who finished off the afternoon with late points.
Despite another stroll to success for Árd Scoil Rís, Moran insisted he is not perturbed as they get set for the final showdown.
“That doesn’t worry me at all. The last two results might have been convincing but we played two serious games before that against Thurles and Flannan’s. These guys train very hard and we’ll be well tuned in for the huge challenge ahead.”
Scorers for Árdscoil Rís: S Dowling 0-8 (6f), B O’Connor, O Hickey 1-2 each, M Carmody 0-2, J Kelliher, C Lynch 0-1 each.
Scorers for Castlecomer CS: C Dwyer 0-4 (2f), E Bergin, L Maher 0-1 each.
ÁRDSCOIL RÍS: PJ Hall; K Lynch, B O’Connell, D Maloney; A Dempsey, D Hannon, M Moroney; M Ryan, J Shanahan; M Carmody, S Dowling, B O’Connor; K O’Brien, O Hickey, J Fitzgibbon.
Subs: J Kelliher for Fitzgibbon (41), C Keogh for Moroney (45), C Lynch for O’Brien (48), E Fitzgerald for Ryan (55), M Foley for Carmody (57).
CASTLECOMER CS: D Breen; K Delaney, R Healy, N Callinan; R Kinsella, B Cahill, D Dunne; P Keating, R Moran; E Brennan, C Dwyer, E Bergin; A Carron, S Daly, L Maher.
Subs: B Brophy for Carron (ht, S McDermott for Maher (58).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).