Of those 18, only Dungarvan Colleges, in 2012, have been more recent first-time winners than Ardscoil Rís.
Since first inscribing their name on the trophy, in 2010, the Limerick school has become the power in the province — before Saturday, they had won it three times and had reached the semi-finals in the other three years.
In MacDonagh Park, in Nenagh, title number four was ground out in a controlled display of winter hurling. Trailing by 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time, having played against a strong wind in the first-half, Ardscoil seized control in the middle of the pitch, on the resumption, and reeled off six points in a row, between the 31st and 48th minutes.
They didn’t score after that, but they didn’t need to, as they only conceded one more. Little wonder their manager, Niall Moran, was full of praise for the way in which they achieved the win.
“It was a battle royal, so you have to commend both teams,” he said.
“Conditions were very heavy, with the amount of rain we’ve had in the last month or so, and the two teams gave it their all. We were happy at half-time. We were two points down and we had probably left a few chances behind us.
“In the second-half, it was excellent how they applied themselves, but the finishing touches weren’t full there; we had a lot of wides. The refereeing decisions tended to be only going one way, which was disappointing, but we’ve a few things to work on, going forward.”
The hard-working Brian Ryan opened the scoring for Ardscoil, within 32 seconds of the start — one of three points for the midfielder — but it was the only time they led in the first-half, as Our Lady’s took advantage of the wind at their backs.
In centre-back, Brian McGrath — younger brother of Noel and John — they had an expert long-range free-taker, and two of his missiles sandwiched a Jamie Bergin free, as Our Lady’s asserted themselves. Ardscoil weren’t helping themselves with high deliveries that couldn’t penetrate the wind, though, by the 20th minute, they were back to within a point, 0-5 to 0-4, as Paul O’Brien guided a free over.
Not long after that, both O’Brien and David Fitzgerald had a sight of goal, but good defending, by Conor O’Meara and Brian McGrath, respectively, repelled their efforts.
Another McGrath free, from halfway, left two in it again, but other Templemore chances were being squandered and Ardscoil responded with the score of the half, as Darragh Carroll’s lovely diagonal ball for Fitzgerald was fired over from a tight angle.
A good run and shot from Templemore wing-back, Kevin Hassett, made it 0-7 to 0-5 in injury time, but Ardscoil felt that they should have trailed by just one point at half-time. When O’Brien fluffed the pick-up on a free, he seemed to strike the ball over the bar from the ground, but the umpires waved wide.
Nevertheless, it made no real difference, as they clicked into gear on the restart. O’Brien set things in motion, as he tied matters with two points, before Carroll put them in front. John Flynn, at midfield, came to the fore, while Peter Casey was also making his presence felt in attack.
Casey’s fine point, in the 42nd minute, made it 0-10 to 0-5, and then Carroll extended the lead, when he gained possession, after centre-back Nathan Fox’s heroic blockdown. Bergin finally ended Templemore’s famine in the 49th minute, but further inroads proved difficult, as Ardscoil put up the defensive shutters.
In injury-time, on three occasions Templemore launched deliveries towards the goal, but each time Ardscoil were able to clear, and they held on for the win.
The All-Ireland series allows the chance for an itch to be scratched, as Ardscoil have yet to add a Croke Cup to their three Hartys. The losers of the Leinster final, between St Kieran’s College and Kilkenny CBS, will provide the opposition, but, for the moment, Moran was happy to bask in the glow of Munster glory.
“I think a day like today isn’t for cheap talk like that.
“The Harty Cup is a prestigious competition. If it was good enough for the Joe McKennas and John Fentons and Jamesie O’Connors, it’s well good enough for us.
“Today is all about the Dr Harty Cup. I don’t even know who we’re playing next, but we’ll look at that when we have to.”
P O’Brien, 0-4 (three frees), B Ryan, P Casey, D Fitzgerald, 0-2 each, D Carroll, 0-1.
B McGrath, J Bergin, 0-3 (frees) each, L Fairbrother, K Hassett, 0-1 each.
S Mullane (Mungret St Paul’s); S Hogan (Adare), S Phelan (Broadford), R Connolly (Adare); J Boylan (Na Piarsaigh), N Fox (Parteen), C Houlihan (Na Piarsaigh); J Flynn (Patrickswell), B Ryan (South Liberties); C Boylan (Na Piarsaigh), P Casey (Na Piarsaigh), P O’Loughlin (Clonlara, Clare); D Carroll (Kilteely/Dromkeen), D Fitzgerald (Clonlara, Clare), P O’Brien (Mungret St Paul’s).
C Moriarty (Clonlara, Clare) for O’Loughlin (57), D Cunningham (Cratloe) for Carroll (58), J McInerney (Cratloe, Clare) for Fitzgerald, J Delahunty (Newport, Tipperary) for Hogan (both 60).
J Kennedy (JK Brackens); C O’Meara (Drom & Inch), D Ryan (Clonakenny), E Ryan (Loughmore-Castleiney); T Murphy (JK Brackens), B McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), K Hassett (Drom & Inch); D O’Shea (JK Brackens), P Cadell (JK Brackens); J Bergin (Drom & Inch), A Ryan (Loughmore-Castleiney), S Nolan (Drom & Inch); P Bergin (Drom & Inch), J Kelly (Borrisoleigh), L Fairbrother (JK Brackens).
R McCormack (Borrisoleigh) for Bergin (40), C Thorpe (Drom & Inch) for Kelly (53).
N Wall (Cork).