St Kieran’s, the famed Kilkenny academy, are going for four in a row as Our Lady’s gear up for their first final since 1978.
Having won the Harty Cup for the first time in 39 years, Our Lady’s went a step further by seeing off the dogged challenge of Kilkenny CBS in yesterday’s Masita Post-Primary Schools All-Ireland Senior A Hurling semi-final.
However, standing in the path of ultimate glory are St Kieran’s, conquerors of Kilkenny CBS in the Leinster final and boasting a full-back line that Byrnes holds in the highest esteem.
“They’re a savage outfit,” said Byrnes. “They’re big as well, strong and probably have the best full-back line I’ve ever seen at colleges hurling.
“You have Adrian Ronan’s son [Tommy] and DJ Carey’s son [Michael] is full-back. They’re formidable and they’re going to be a huge test.”
After walloping St Colman’s in the Harty final, Our Lady’s got the tight game they needed after a few weeks off. It should prime them for the St Kieran’s challenge and, while Our Lady’s won by three points, goals in stoppage time at the end of each half added some gloss to the final score, from a Kilkenny CBS perspective.
In truth, Templemore were the superior side, but CBS brought buckets of heart to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.
Crucially, Our Lady’s kept Sean Bolger quiet and, while Niall Brassil scored nine points, eight of those scores came from placed balls. In total, CBS hit 1-7 from play, but Templemore managed 0-16, including five in the first half from Andrew Ormonde.
Brian McGrath, Tipp’s 2016 All-Ireland minor winning captain, matched Brassil’s tally and his late point, after CBS goalkeeper Ben Maher had goaled from a 20m free, was a sumptuous effort from the right touchline.
At key moments, particularly in the second half, McGrath showed real leadership, but he wasn’t alone, with full-back Padraig Campion executing a couple of heroic late blocks.
Maher was blinded by the sun late on in the Leinster final, but any lingering fears about his mentality on the big day were banished by a series of fine saves.
The O’Loughlin Gaels net-minder looks like a player destined for a big future and, in years to come, it’s likely that Our Lady’s and CBS players will renew acquaintances in the county colours of Tipperary and Kilkenny.
At half-time, Our Lady’s led by 0-14 to 1-8, as Joe Sheehan’s goal brought CBS back into contention.
However, they couldn’t get closer to the winners than two points in the second half, as Templemore’s dream of a Harty/Croke Cup double, to emulate the feats of 1978, remain alive.
B McGrath 0-9 (5f, 2 65s) A Ormonde 0-5, D O’Shea 0-3, J Kelly & L Fairbrother (1f) 0-2 each, É McBride, J Ryan & R McCormack 0-1 each.
N Brassil 0-9 (7f, 1 65), J Sheehan 1-3, B Maher 1-0f, S Boyd 0-2, S Bolger 0-1.
E Collins; N Quinlan, P Campion, E Ryan; É McBride, P Cadell, A O’Meara; D Ryan, J Ryan; J Kelly, B McGrath, R McCormack; A Ormonde, D O’Shea, L Fairbrother.
S Doyle for D Ryan (59), F Purcell for J Ryan (59), G O’Connor for Ormonde (60+3)
B Maher; M Butler, J Minogue, J Molloy; P Collins, C Flynn, L Stynes; C Heary, N Brassil; R Buckley, S Boyd, S Bolger; S Staunton, D Dunne, J Sheehan.
C Drennan for Staunton (45), M Doyle for Dunne (53)
J Keane (Galway)