No other school has managed more than one in the time since the Limerick side’s maiden victory in 2010, when they beat Thurles CBS after two replays. As a member of that side and the team which beat Charleville CBS in 2011, Limerick star Shane Dowling recalls how Ardscoil gradually came to be a force.
“I went into the school in 2005,” he says when I was in transition year, they got to a Harty semi-final against St Caimin’s out in Dolla.
“I was the sub goalkeeper and Declan Hannon came on. They were beaten that yearand I think in the semis the year before too.
“The first final was in 2010, the famous three games against Thurles. It was our first final so we didn’t really know what to expect, they had a lot of big names at the time but the games were evenly matched and the atmosphere was unreal.
“The second day, Cathal McInerney got sent off so that was a blow but we got them to extra time and were able to play 15 on 15 again. We drew that again and I think then we won comfortably enough the third day.” The foundations had been laid with underage wins, while the team was prepared to an inordinately high level.
“Niall Moran was over us with Derek Larkin and Liam Cronin, I suppose they were more our friends than our teachers,” Dowling says.
“We were very well looked after, it was a professional set-up, you wouldn’t get one like it until you hit inter-county senior, really. When I went into the school, it was a rugby school, no question, but we were lucky that a lot of good hurlers came in together and we got to Rice Cup and White Cup finals and we were the first team to win the Dean Ryan.
“Declan was captain, I was vice-captain, we won in Clarecastle against St Flannan’s, that set the tone as it was the first time the school had won a Munster cup and that has carried on until today. The top hurlers in Limerick, and even some in Clare, they want to play with Ardscoil Rís.”
In 2011, Charleville were beaten by 3-19 to 0-3 as a star-studded Ardscoil side, featuring Dowling, Hannon, Kevin Downes, John Fitzgibbon, Barry O’Connell, Kevin O’Brien and Clare’s Jamie Shanahan and Oisín Hickey clicked in devastating fashion.
“We had a freak team that year, it was unbelievable,” Dowling says.
“Unfortunately, we never won an All-Ireland that that’s still something that turns my stomach every day.”
“Every year now, if you don’t get to a Harty Cup semi-final or final, it’s seen as a disappointment. The opposition now go in against Ardscoil thinking, God, these are the kingpins ofMunster hurling’, it’s amazing how things like that can change within the space of 10 years.
“There’s serious work done, it’s a credit to the principal, Bríd de Brún, and all of the teachers. There are buses of supporters going to games and it’s a part of the religion in there now.
“A lot of past pupils would still have a keen interest too. I’ll be there, we have a couple of lads from Na Piarsaigh involved so I’ll be shouting them on and hoping Peter Casey performs and comes out injury-free ahead of the All-Ireland club final!”