This wasn’t just any old loss – this one cut deep.
It wasn’t just that it was an All-Ireland final, bad as that is all on its own. This was the third All-Ireland final in a row lost by CBS, several players involved in at least two of those defeats; this was also a loss to their old rivals from across the river but, compounding it all, this was a loss against a Kieran’s team CBS had already well beaten in the Leinster final.
Cruel fate? Disappointing? All that and more, their young coach Niall Tyrrell struggling to find fitting expression. “Very, very disappointing. It was always going to be difficult to beat them twice in a month and we knew that. After the Leinster final we knew we hadn’t seen the end of St Kieran’s College and when they got through the back-door game (gutsy come-from—behind quarter-final extra-time win over St Brigid’s Loughrea) we knew they were going to progress. To beat any top team twice within four weeks is very difficult and that was proven again today.”
Goals had been the difference in the Leinster final, two goals from full-forward Jamie Byrne helping CBS to a 2-13 to 0-13 win; goals were again the difference here, one in each half and both coming at a time when it looked like CBS were about to run away with the game.
The first came in the 14th minute with CBS 0-5 to 0-0 ahead and worth every point, the superb Luke Scanlon already on the board as was late call-up James Lenihan and free-taker Andrew Gaffney.
St Kieran’s had missed a few chances but when wing-forward Brian Cody came charging through the middle, onto a perfectly timed pass from Conor O’Carroll, he made no mistake. Four points from free-taker Conor Murphy against a further brace from Scanlon left the score 1-4 to 0-7 at the break and on a perfect pitch, on a fine hurling day, everything was still in the balance.
The second Kieran’s goal was probably even more timely. Again CBS had the better start, again it was Scanlon leading the way – in fact they had two points on the board within a minute (Lenihan with the other), a statement surely of intent. Enter Tadhg O’Dwyer. The James Stephens man had threatened in the first-half, a lovely double on a dropping ball coming close. Now he delivered; another dropping ball (from a Liam Blanchfield centre), another flick but this time a green flag.
It wasn’t quite the death-blow but it was the game-changer and for the remaining 28 minutes it was the Magpies, now with their tails up, out-pointing CBS by 12 points to four, O’Dwyer with three of those, subs Seán Morrissey (three) and Robbie Donnelly (four frees) also getting on the board. A nine-point win then, but this was most definitely not a nine-point game. Tyrell said: “After the Leinster final I said that hadn’t been a six-point game. We got the breaks that day, Kieran’s got them today and that’s why they’re the All-Ireland champions — goals win matches and theirs were brilliantly taken. We got a great start in both halves; we got two unanswered points to start the second half and hoped to kick on from there but unfortunately for us Kieran’s came up the field and worked a very good goal. In fairness to our lads they still fought hard and I’m finding it hard to accept we lost by nine points — it wasn’t a nine-point game.”
There was one discordant note however, among the CBS supporters especially, and it was with the man in the middle, referee Alan Kelly, whom they felt overlooked many a St Kieran’s foul.
The losing coach was having none of it. “I don’t want to go down that route, I don’t want to take it away from St Kieran’s. The game was there for us both, they won it, they deserved it.”
Scorers for St Kieran’s: T O’Dwyer 1-3; B Cody 1-1; C Murphy 0-4 (4f); R Donnelly 0-4 (4f); S Morrissey 0-3; J Cleere 0-1.
Scorers for Kilkenny CBS: A. Gaffney 0-5 (0-4 frees, 0-1 65), L. Scanlon 0-5, J .Lenihan 0-2, P. Deegan 0-1.
ST KIERAN’S: J Barcoe; M Cody, T Walsh, J Keoghan; J Cleere, D Mullen, E Walsh; K Blanchfield, J Maher (c); J Byrne, L Blanchfield, B Cody; C Murphy, C O’Carroll, T O’Dwyer.
Subs: S Morrissey for Byrne (36); R Donnelly for Murphy (40); B Ryan for B Cody (51); C Browne for E Walsh (60).
KILKENNY CBS: D Holahan (c); C Doheny, C McGrath, K Galvin; G Bryan, P Deegan, E Cody; JP Treacy, N Mullins; J Lenihan, L Scanlon, H Lawlor; A Gaffney, J Byrne, R Buckley.
Subs: M McWey for Byrne (36); R Murphy for Lawlor (44); P Delahunty for Lenihan (56); D Doheny for Gaffney (58).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).