The Limerick nursery, who celebrated Harty Cup glory on three occasions in the past six years, were chasing revenge yesterday having fallen on Rochestown’s sword in a pulsating semi-final 12-months ago.
Pulsating this contest certainly was not; the heavy surface, greasy sliothar and biting cold weather making life extremely difficult for both sets of players. The Cork school, without question, came off second best in acclimatising to the conditions at Charleville, but four points in a row between the 36th and 41st minute had trebled their tally and, in the process, significantly eaten into their opponent’s lead - 0-9 to 0-6 now read the scoreboard. Finally we had a game on our hands. Or so we thought.
On 46 minutes, Ardscoil Rís landed the first of two game-changing punches; Rochestown pinned onto the ropes.
In an almost microcosm of the hour’s hurling, Ardscoil Rís slowly worked possession up the stand sideline, each player making no more than 10 metres with the ball. Cutting in from the corner, David Fitzgerald and Paraic O’Loughlin combined to set up John Flynn and despite the close attention of four black shirts, the Patrickswell midfielder tossed possession into the air to bat home the opening goal. Slow and scrappy, but nonetheless effective.
Shane Kingston, a closely marshalled figure throughout, posted the Roco response, but it was game over on 49 minutes - Ardscoil Rís prising open the Rochestown defence for a second goal. Conor Boylan put sub David Fitzgerald in the clear and the Clonlara student finished clinically beyond Daniel O’Mahony. O’Loughlin added two frees in the ensuing passages to put 10 points between the teams (2-11 to 0-7), the life visibly draining from the Rochestown challenge.
Eoghan O’Brien, who along with Ciarán Cormack and Cashman toiled diligently for the losers, struck a consolation goal on 58 minutes.
Full-back Cashman was probably the busiest man on the field in the early stages as the Limerick school swept forward at every turn, delivery after delivery being launched into the danger area. And although Rochestown found themselves 0-6 to 0-0 in arrears after 25 minutes, the situation could have been far bleaker but for five wides, Cashman’s composure at the heart of the Roco defence and an important save from O’Mahony to deny Darragh Carroll - their own cause wasn’t helped by the loss of full-forward Séan Powter through injury.
For the winners, centre-back Nathan Fox, midfield pair John Flynn and Brian Ryan, along with Darragh Cunningham, Paul O’Brien and O’Loughlin in the half-forward line exerted greatest influence. O’Brien struck their opening four points (0-3 frees), with corner-forwards Peter Casey and Conor Boylan getting in on the act approaching half-time - 0-7 to 0-2 the interval difference; 28 minutes had elapsed before Eoghan O’Brien broke the deadlock for Diarmuid Fahy’s side.
Two on the bounce from O’Loughlin moved the 2014 champions further into the distance and while Brian Turnbull (0-2), James Holland a fine John O’Sullivan strike brought last year’s finalists within reach, thereafter arrived both Ardscoil Rís goals.
P O’Brien (0-5, 0-4 frees); P O’Loughlin (0-4, 0-2 frees); J Flynn, D Fitzgerald (1-0 each); P Casey, C Boylan (0-1 each).
E O’Brien (1-1); B Turnbull (0-2, 0-1 free); J O’Sullivan, C Cormack, S Kingston, J Holland (0-1 each).
E Foley (Na Piarsaigh); S Hogan (Adare), S Phelan (Broadford), J Delahunty (Newport); C Houlihan (Na Piarsaigh), N Fox (Parteen), J Boylan (Na Piarsaigh); J Flynn (Patrickswell), B Ryan (South Liberties); D Cunningham (Cratloe), P O’Brien (Mungret), P O’Loughlin (Clonlara); C Boylan (Na Piarsaigh), C Moriarty (Clonlara), P Casey (Na Piarsaigh).
D Carroll (Kilteely/Dromkeen) for Moriarty (23 mins), D Fitzgerald (Clonlara) for O’Brien (35 mins); J Gleeson (Na Piarsaigh) for Ryan (54, inj), I Considine (Na Piarsaigh) for Casey (56).
D O’Mahony (Blackrock); D Murphy (Douglas), J Cashman (Blackrock), R Ó Colmáin (Blackrock); K O’Donovan (Nemo), D Stack (Carrigaline), M MacAuliffe (Douglas); J O’Sullivan (Blackrock), D O’Flaherty (Tracton); J Holland (Douglas), C Cormack (Blackrock), E O’Brien (Douglas); B Turnbull (Douglas), S Powter (Douglas), S Kingston (Douglas).
R Crowley (Blackrock) for Powter (28 mins, inj).
F Horgan (Tipperary).