All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Croke Cup (Senior Hurling “A”) Final – St. Kieran’s Kilkenny 1-15 Ardscoil Ris 1-13

St. Kieran’s Kilkenny defeated Ardscoil Ris by 1-15 to 1-13 in the All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Croke Cup (Senior Hurling “A”) Final on Monday March 28th at Semple Stadium Thurles.

Match Preview

FORMER Limerick star Niall Moran leads his Árdscoil Ris side into the final of the Masita GAA All Ireland Croke Cup final on Easter Monday, happy that the culture of hurling is alive and well in his school.

Árdscoil lies in the heartland of Limerick City, a hotbed for rugby and home to a growing soccer population too, but Moran is happy that the school’s presence at post-primary hurling’s top table will enable the small ball game to continue to thrive in the county.

“I would say that over the years there are eight or nine teachers who have played a role in the school getting to where it is at the moment and it means a lot to everyone that we are contesting All-Ireland finals,” Moran says.

“It also means a lot to our feeder clubs around Limerick and Clare and to our players who are well tuned and motivated. But we have good players and it’s easy to motivate them. School teams go in cycles but it is important to maintain what we have. The truth is that we have scant sporting facilities in Árdscoil but we fight harder because of that as we cannot lose our culture of hurling.

“Rugby is huge threat in our school and we are one of only a few operating in both codes. Players are being tested in their hearts and minds to see if they want to try for a pro career in rugby. Soccer and rowing are big in the city too but at the moment we are not faring too bad. We are trying to build a tradition of hurling like what St Kieran’s, St Flannans and St Colman’s have.”

With All-Ireland winners like Darach Honan passing through the senior team in 2005/06 and Shane Downing and Dec Hannon excelling there also after that, the school has maintained its ability to feed the nearby intercounty teams.

Alongside Fergal Lyons, Paul Flanagan and Barry Hennessy, Moran has been at the helm of the Árdscoil team for the past few seasons. They have excelled in Munster, but have experienced continued heartbreak in the All-Ireland series.

Most recently they were beaten in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

But they have powered their way back into this year’s final again after a thrilling 1-18 to 0-20 semi-final win over Presentation College Athenry. That resilience can only be admired after losing the Croke Cup finals of 2010 and 2011 at the hands of St Kierans College, who again stand in their way.

This time, however, the stakes are even higher as the Kilkenny side are seeking three All Ireland titles in a row.

“Well, we’d obviously like to go one better but it doesn’t define the players either,” the manager says. “And the biggest credit should go to the guys who kept it going when we had no success,” Moran deflects. “‘Tis easy to do it now.”

“We aspire to the level Kierans have reached as they have ensured that their standards are extremely high. We want to be like them. To even get near the levels that they have in Kieran’s would be huge.”

Moran feels that success merely paints hard work in a better light and that no matter what happens on Easter Monday that graft will not stop in Árdscoil.

Giants of the colleges’ game St Kieran’s would do well, however, to note the insatiable hunger of the Limerick school who are desperate to get over that final hurdle.

“We do indeed know how hungry they are,” says Kieran’s manager Liam Smith.

“We played them in a challenge over Christmas and they beat us well. We know the heartbreak they have endured in recent years and we realise that we will be up against it.

“But like Árdscoil we have a great bunch of fellas. Some of them have been late developers and it has been brilliant to see them come through.”

Each summer, Smith and his mentors scour the local underage championships to watch players who might not yet have made ‘A’ teams in Kieran’s.

On Monday, they field one player who never played in ‘A’ competition until this season and another who was on a school ‘D’ team when he first began his juvenile career with the college.

Whatever the formula, it works. Last year the Croke Cup specialists collected a 20th title at Semple Stadium and only cemented their status as standard bearers in post-primary schools ‘A’ hurling with a three-point victory over Thurles CBS.

After that game Smith said: “To be honest with you, in Kieran’s you’re judged by what’s up on the board and some of the boys are up there again.”