But, ultimately, it was the old order of Tralee CBS, chasing a 16th title, that prevailed after an engaging contest that unfolded in wretched weather conditions.
Rochestown College, back participating in the elite senior grade of Munster Colleges football this year for the first time in over half a century, brought strong credentials with them after topping Group A before Christmas. Yet despite mounting a highly-spirited revival after trailing by seven points in the early stages of the second half, they fell just short.
The driving wind and rain had necessitated a change of location before throw-in, with the action switched from Dr Crokes’ grounds across the Lewis Road to Kerry GAA’s flagship venue. Despite the adverse weather the game, which featured marquee names amongst the coaching staffs through Cork goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran (Rochestown College) and Kerry defender Marc Ó Sé (Tralee CBS), contained plenty of endeavour. The manner of Rochestown College’s comeback after half time kept matters interesting until the final whistle.
Tralee CBS had that extra finesse and class up front which proved telling. Forwards such as Ronan Quill, Jack Savage and Sean Moloney were sharp and clinical from the off as they posed problems for the Rochestown defence. But it was centre-forward Niall Sheehy who was the focal point of the Tralee CBS attack with his clever angles of running, strong burst of pace and clear ability to convert points off both feet.
The John Mitchels player featured for the Kerry minor team last summer and is eligible again for that grade this year. By the 11th minute he had smacked over a brace of points to help Tralee CBS into a 0-4 to no score advantage and the signs were looking ominous for Rochestown College as they faced into a heavy breeze. They steadied the ship admirably though, with Aaron Ward and Graham Sheehan providing vital respite with a point apiece.
However, Tralee CBS firmly pressed on the accelerator before the interval and raced into a 0-8 to 0-2 lead, with Sheehy (two), Conor Jordan and Michael Wrenn all on target.
The trend of Tralee CBS dominance was maintained after the break when Savage swept over a free but then the game veered in a different direction as Rochestown College refused to capitulate.
Ronan White, Andrew Murphy and Alan O’Donovan all became influential figures in dictating the patterns of play, and while scores from play were a rare commodity, they did find some solace from placed balls.
Graham Sheehan from the right wing and Mark O’Connor from the left proved accurate under pressure as they notched a pair of points apiece. Sheehy grabbed one back for Tralee CBS but trailing 0-10 to 0-6 with 11 minutes remaining, Rochestown College still had justified cause to believe they could claim a semi-final place.
They came desperately close to doing so. Substitute Gary Hartnett broke a 37-minute scoring drought from play when he fired over a 51st-minute point and midfielder Jack Somers followed up with a similar effort. Having trimmed the margin to two points, they pounded the Tralee CBS rearguard but a couple of movements broke down when they came close to creating the space to fashion a goalscoring chance.
Tralee CBS had resilient second-half displays from Tom McLoughlin and Greg Horan, and were extremely grateful when patient build-up play three minutes from time yielded a marvellous point by wing-back Jake Moran. That gave them enough breathing space and despite shipping another free to Rochestown College attacker Sheehan, they held out to set up a semi-final date with PS Chorca Dhuibhne, who they previously faced in the group stages.
Scorers for Tralee CBS: N Sheehy 0-5 (2f); R Quill, S Moloney, C Jordan, J Savage (0-1f), M Wrenn, J Moran 0-1 each.
Scorers for Rochestown College: G Sheehan 0-4 (4f); M O’Connor 0-2 (2f); G Hartnett, J Somers, A Ward 0-1 each.
TRALEE CBS: E Reidy (Ballymacelligott); M Donnelly (Kerins O’Rahilly’s), S O’Connor (John Mitchels), T Begley (Kerins O’Rahilly’s); T McLoughlin (Austin Stacks), D Moynihan (Na Gaeil), J Moran (John Mitchels); G Horan (Austin Stacks), M Wrenn (John Mitchels); E McAllen (Austin Stacks), N Sheehy (John Mitchels), S Moloney (John Mitchels); C Jordan (Austin Stacks), J Savage (Kerins O’Rahilly’s), R Quill (Kerins O’Rahilly’s).
Subs: S Walsh (Austin Stacks) for Wrenn (40), S Crowley (Austin Stacks) for McAllen (44).
ROCHESTOWN COLLEGE: E Dolan (Douglas); K Flahive (Douglas), R White (Douglas), D Barrett (Nemo Rangers); D Meaney (St Michael’s), A Murphy (St Michael’s), J Somers (Passage); A O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers), C Cormac (St Michael’s); S McDonald (Douglas), K Hodgins (St Finbarr’s), M O’Connor (Douglas); G Sheehan (Douglas) S O’Mahony (Douglas) A Ward (Douglas).
Subs: G Hartnett (Douglas) for Ward (44), E O’Connor (Douglas) for McDonald (57).
Referee: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary).