Back in the premier schools hurling competition in Munster after a long absence, Christians – a celebrated rugby nursery – began well and led 0-7 to 0-6 at half-time. However, when Mark Kehoe and Martin Gibbs scored points for Clonmel within a minute of each other to tie the game at 0-8 each, the m omentum appeared to be with the Tipperary school.
They wouldn’t score again, though, and Christians gained a second wind to secure victory. A team picture, with the backdrop of the sizeable support in the Clashmore stand, marked the occasion with school principal Larry Jordan informing the students it was their first win in the Harty in 97 years.
Normally, hearing the Sidney Hill outfit had won by 16 points to eight would have prompted the question as to who scored the converted try and three penalties, but the hurling qualities were evident. Last year, they had reached the B final at the top level but manager Donal O’Mahony admitted there was still an element of uncertainty as to their capability of playing in the Harty.
“We wanted to see if we could be competitive or not, that was our goal,” he said afterwards. To compete at this level, that’s a big step up for us and that was our aim going in. You could see there that we have a good bunch of fellas who are going to give it everything.”
The 19 Christians players who saw game-time were drawn from 11 clubs, but getting them to gel together wasn’t a problem.
“It was a good team performance, that’s what we’re all about,” O’Mahony said. “We have a great spread of clubs and we had had a few practice games which went well for us. We want to send the players back to their clubs as better players and playing at the top level in Munster is going to do that.”
Reaching the knockout stages is now a very realistic aspiration after victory here. While the impeccable free-taking of Jamie Corkery caught the eye, it truly was a team effort, with the half-back line of Billy Hennessy, Eoin Moloney and Cathal McNamara setting the tone.
A well-taken Ben Keohane point put Christians 0-5 to 0-2 in front on 16 minutes but Matt Barlow in midfield for Clonmel – who eschewed their sweeper system early on – was becoming more prominent. In injury time, he made it 0-6 each but, having led all through up until then, Christians ensured that they went in with the half-time advantage after Robbie O’Flynn did well to evade a challenge and sent the ball over.
Within 20 seconds of the restart, Peter Blake’s run and point saw them two clear again, but Clonmel looked to be upping their game as Conor O’Sullivan was denied a goal chance by Tommy O’Connell and then Kehoe and Gibbs pointed to level.
In the next play, a Christians attack looked to have ended in a wide after a scramble by the goal-line, but referee Joe Salmon awarded a 65 instead, with Corkery converting that. A subsequent free went begging as he opted to go for goal but he did make it 0-10 to 0-8 on 47 before Shane Finn opened up the game’s biggest lead a minute later.
J Corkery 0-9 (seven frees, one 65), B Keohane 0-3, R O’Flynn 0-2, S Finn, P Blake 0-1 each.
M Kehoe, D Ryan (two frees) 0-2 each, Matt Barlow, C O’Sullivan, S O’Meara, M Gibbs 0-1 each.
T O’Connell (Midleton); K Green (Blackrock), K Crowley (Sarsfields), C Barrett (St Finbarr’s); B Hennessy (St Finbarr’s), E Moloney (Midleton), C McNamara (Erin’s Own); R Downey (Glen Rovers), M Walsh (Cloughduv); B Keohane (Ballincollig), S Finn (Midleton), R O’Flynn (Erin’s Own); H Woulfe (Whitechurch), J Corkery (Glen Rovers), P Blake (Whitechurch).
D O’Sullivan (Kilshannig) for Woulfe (half-time), E Monahan (Erin’s Own) for Blake (47), J Taylor (Erin’s Own) for Walsh (54), E Doyle (Douglas) for Keohane (60).
L Delahunty (Moyle Rovers); C Bates (Moyle Rovers), S Ryan (Fourmilewater), M McFadden (Ballyneale); G Ryan (St Mary’s), K Peters (St Mary’s), Michael Barlow (Ballybacon-Grange); Matt Barlow (St Mary’s), G Whelan (Ballybacon-Grange); C O’Sullivan (St Mary’s), S O’Meara (Fourmilewater), M Hogan (Ballybacon-Grange); D Ryan (Moyle Rovers), M Kehoe (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), M Gibbs (Kilsheelan-Kilcash).
S Martin (Kilsheelan-Kilcash) for O’Sullivan (49), D Bolger (Moyle Rovers) for Hogan (56).
J Salmon (Clashmore).