Darren Mullen v Peter Casey. It is rare you’ll find an All-Ireland U21 medal winner lining out in a schools final but such were Peter Casey’s performances for the Limerick minors last spring and summer that he earned a call-up to the Limerick U21 squad which swept to glory in September — the Na Piarsaigh forward was the first sub introduced in the All-Ireland final hammering of Wexford. Casey, who will operate at centre-forward for Ardscoil Rís, should be brimming with confidence after hitting three points from play during Na Piarsaigh’s St Patrick’s Day dismissal of Cushendall at GAA HQ. Charged with containing him is St Kieran’s centre-back Darren Mullen. He is one of the few survivors from the all-conquering class of 2014.
The St Kieran’s half-forward line of Joe Connolly, Colum Prediville and Adrian Mullen have been posting fairly sizeable tallies in progressing the reigning champions to a fifth final in seven years. Last time out, they hit 1-11 of their 2-16 semi-final tally.
They’ll take watching.
Tommy Walsh lined out at full-back for St Kieran’s in their semi-final victory over Our Lady’s Templemore, but could be redeployed to half-back to curb the influence of Paraic O’Loughlin, a position Walsh held down during their Leinster final win over Kilkenny CBS. Clonlara native O’Loughlin hit four points from play in Ardscoil Rís’ semi-final win over Presentation Athenry and struck two goals in their quarter-final victory over Kilkenny CBS.
Tradition is certainly on the side of St Kieran’s.
The Kilkenny nursery is chasing a 21st Croke Cup, a fifth since 2010. Four of the current team were present inside the whitewash for last year’s final and so are fully in tune as to what it takes to get over the line.
The same cannot be said for their Limerick opponents who on the two occasions when they reached the final, 2010 and ’11, were hauled in and overtaken by St Kieran’s in the closing stages. Both defeats are sure to be referenced in the Ardscoil Rís dressing room shortly before 4pm, as will the 2014 semi-final defeat. It might just be fourth time lucky.
Abbey CBS are bolstered by the return of centre-back, Josh Ryan, who missed the semi-final through suspension.
Several members of the Abbey CBS team tasted defeat in the football equivalent at Croke Park, this time last year, and so will be determined to sign-off on their time at the Tipperary school with at least one All-Ireland medal.
The Munster champions arrive into the decider off the back of a narrow, 2-7 to 0-12 semi-final win over Coláiste Mhuire Johnstown.
Niall Heffernan is likely to return to the attack, having filled the gap left by Josh Ryan, in defence.
Kieran Breen and Tommy Lowry have proven a fairly formidable partnership at midfield, while Shane Neville, Daire Egan, and Shane Power have been regular contributors on the scoreboard.
The Ulster champions were hugely impressive in their semi-final dismissal of St Raphael’s, Loughrea.
The Ballymena school led by 14 points at one stage — 2-14 to 2-6 is how it finished.