Tomorrow is the chance for Kilkenny CBS to shine in the colleges hurling domain themselves. A campaign that was on life support after they were overturned by St Kieran’s in the Leinster decider has been resuscitated in the All-Ireland series and a place in tomorrow’s Dr Croke Cup final has been secured.
“St Kieran’s are the colleges leaders but we take hurling very seriously ourselves,” says Kilkenny CBS selector and principal Tom Clarke. “The fact that St Kieran’s do not have boarding students any more has probably levelled the playing field to some extent.
“There’s a good healthy competition there between the two Kilkenny city schools, particularly when we meet as we did in this year’s Leinster final. You have club mates coming up against each other from both city clubs and country clubs. We’d a lot of regrets after losing the Leinster final. It was hugely disappointing and a game we felt we should have won. We conceded a soft goal in the second half that had a devastating impact on us.”
Kilkenny CBS had little time to dwell on that disappointment as they faced Coláiste na nDéise the following week in the All-Ireland quarter-final. In a high-octane encounter in Dungarvan, Kilkenny CBS defeated the Dr Harty Cup champions after extra-time. A semi-final win over Portumna CS followed to pit them against Nenagh CBS in the decider.
The Kilkenny CBS management team are a disparate group who have combined to steer them to the final.
Former Laois player Seamus Dwyer from Ballinakill is the team manager with current Kilkenny senior and past student Matthew Ruth from James Stephens on board along with Cappamore native Niall Sheehan, who has hurled at Fitzgibbon Cup level with UCC and in the minor and U21 grades with Limerick. Clarke, who is from the Boherlahan-Dualla club in Tipperary and has previously been involved with Dr Harty Cup sides in Charleville CBS and Thurles CBS, is fulsome in his praise of the contribution of the players.
“Our panel are a magnificent bunch of fellas. They provide great leadership and set out their targets very clearly. After beating Coláiste na nDéise, the players started to realise there was then a very real opportunity to win the All-Ireland.”
Off the field the school is busy too, as they prepare for an upcoming trip to Zambia where they'll be working in a local community, with several of the senior hurling team due to go on that trip.
The school, who previously won the All-Ireland title in 1981, last contested the final in 2007 when a team that featured current Kilkenny seniors Richie Doyle and Mark Bergin, lost to De La Salle in Croke Park. Now they aim to triumph but Clarke is wary of the challenge that Nenagh CBS pose.
“We’re under no illusions about the strength of Nenagh,” he said. They’ve shown a brilliant capacity to bounce back.
“We’re very well aware of the tactics that they have implemented and they were very impressive against St Kieran’s. But there’s a great feeling around the school, we’ve had brilliant support from local companies and clubs, and we’re going to savour the occasion.”