A slice of history for the young hurlers of Ardscoil Rís on Saturday at the Gaelic Grounds as they became winners of the first all-Limerick Harty Cup final by claiming a third title in five years for the north city school.
It’s not enough though, says team manager Niall Crowe, not nearly enough. On the two other occasions they’ve won in Munster, Ardscoil have failed in the All-Ireland series. Now is the time to put that right.
“I’ll put it this way, and I’ve rehearsed this, this season will end in disappointment if we don’t win the All-Ireland, that’s a fact,” he said. “We had three goals at the start of the year: to get out of our group, preferably as first or second; then to win the Harty Cup; now we want to win the All-Ireland. I won’t shy away from saying that. We want to win the All-Ireland.”
They’ll have to improve if they’re to do so. For half an hour on Saturday against a Doon side who set out to frustrate their high-powered attack by playing an extra man back, Ardscoil struggled. The game was on a knife edge at the break just two points between them, 0-4 to 0-2.
“I think the occasion got to both teams in the first half, a lot of mistakes, a lot of nervousness,” reckoned Niall. “We managed to settle them at half-time, said ‘Listen, we’re four-two up, just relax. We know we haven’t hurled well, just keep your composure’. But they knew themselves they hadn’t got into the game. As soon as the second half started we got the first score, then we got the second score, then we really began to hurl like we know we can. It’s a massive occasion, the county grounds, provincial final, parades and all that. It doesn’t matter what kind of player you are, that can get to you.”
The fact the champions of 2010 and 2011 were red-hot favourites didn’t help their cause but, says their manager, it shouldn’t be a hindrance either.
“Not to sound arrogant about it but we’ve got to the stage where every time we go out in the Harty Cup we’re expected to win. We mightn’t always be the best team but one thing we’ve instilled in this team all year, you have to handle being favourites and we were strong favourites going into today. That’s something you have to take on board, you have to embrace it, move on.”
Struggle though they did in that opening half. When Ardscoil opened their shoulders in that second half they showed why they were so favoured.
“We felt if we could get on top of them they’d have to bring the sweeper forward again and that’s when the space would open up. Obviously though the first goal was massive, that put us in the driving seat.
“Was it the prettiest game of hurling you’ve ever seen? Probably not but look it’s all about winning. We’re just so relieved really. In terms of the build-up we probably felt more pressure in the semi-final. Lose that and you’re out, get to a final and you’re in the All-Ireland series at least. Credit to Doon as well, I don’t think the scoreboard reflected their effort. They had a number of chances, Colin Ryan was dangerous, but I think we marked their key men well. I thought Barry Fitzgerald did a very good job on Dean Coleman who really is their talisman.
“It’s just such a relief. No more than Doon, no more than any team that gets to the latter stages, the effort that goes in is unbelievable. It’s almost up to inter-county level of professionalism. We had a meeting at LIT on Thursday with the lads and they said they were determined to win the Harty Cup, add a third star to their jersey. They’ve done that today, their third Harty Cup in five years. They wanted to create their own piece of history. They’re unbelievable players, unbelievable talent; the likes of Ronan Lynch, Cian Lynch they knew at half-time they hadn’t played well but you saw them in the second half, the class they have.
“We have class all over the place and even the guys who were brought on made a difference. That’s how you win championships.”
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