All-Ireland Finals and St Kieran’s College almost go hand in hand and the Kilkenny school are back on the road to Croke Park again as they get ready for the St Patrick’s Day decider with Presentation College, Athenry.
If you discount 2020 and 2021, where all post-primary games were cancelled as a result of the Covid outbreak, then St Kieran’s are appearing in an eighth successive Croke Cup decider – that’s fair going in anyone’s language.
Of the previous seven finals Kieran’s have came out on top in five of them; the only losses came against Our Lady’s Templemore in 2017 and Ardscoil Rís in 2022.
Last year’s defeat to first time winners Ardscoil Rís arrived in a campaign that saw St Kieran’s fail to take home provincial honours and it’s a similar outlook this year.
Kieran’s boss Brian Dowling was also in charge for last year’s final defeat and, along with all the players, he is hoping to right a few wrongs on Friday afternoon.
“All-Ireland finals are for winning and while it’s a great experience getting there, at the end of the day you have to come with the trophy,” he said.
“We failed in the Leinster final this year and the All-Ireland final last year so we want to atone for that and put it right. We will do everything we can to bring that trophy back to Kilkenny on Friday.”
Last year’s final was a case of the masters of schools hurling meeting the new kids on the block and it’s very much the same again here.
St Kieran’s are looking to capture a 24th Croke Cup title while Presentation College, Athenry are aiming to win their first. The Galway school have been in three previous finals but have ended up on the losing side in all three.
Athenry lost out to St Flannan’s of Ennis back in 1976 before ending the long wait to reach a final when losing out to St Kieran’s in both 2018 and 2019.
The 2019 final saw St Kieran’s win out on a 1-15 to 1-12 scoreline in Tullamore with Eoin Cody top scoring for the Kilkenny side.
It was a Kieran’s outfit that included the likes of David Blanchfield, Cian Kenny and Conor Kelly.
Also on that team were Darragh Corcoran and Dean Mason, who had only won an All-Ireland title with Shamrocks two weeks before the final – an omen for Killian Corcoran and Niall Shortall perhaps?
The 2018 decider between the same two teams went all the way to extra-time in Thurles but again St Kieran’s had enough to come through.
That brings us to this week’s game and Athenry will again provide stern opposition to Brian Dowling’s side.
Athenry, who were impressive when beating Thurles CBS in the semi-final, have former Galway minor star Aaron Niland in their ranks.
Athenry are aiming to become only the second Galway school to claim Croke Cup honours since St Raphael’s, Loughrea in 1995.
Kieran’s have their own stars though and possibly none bigger than their joint captains Killian Doyle and Harry Shine.
Doyle has already appeared with the Kilkenny seniors when starting in the recent league defeat to Tipperary while Shine is back from a long-term hamstring knock with Brian Dowling pleased to see the Dicksboro star back on the pitch.
“We were just so happy to have Harry back involved as we’ve missed him all year,” the manager said. “You can’t cope without a player like that.
“He’s a top class hurler and he’s put in a huge amount of work to get back.”
The game is live on TG4 Youtube with a 3pm throw-in from Croke Park.
St Kieran’s College Squad – Stephen Manogue (James Stephens), Bobby Murphy (The Harps, Laois), Killian Corcoran (Shamrocks), Timmy Kelly (Bennettsbridge), Bill Hughes (Bennettsbridge), Jeff Neary (Graigue-Ballycallan), Padraig Naddy (Young Irelands), Tom McPhillips (Dicksboro), Killian Doyle (joint captain, Emeralds), Anthony Ireland Wall (Danesfort), Harry Shine (joint captain, Dicksboro), Aaron McEvoy (Graigue-Ballycallan), Niall Shortall (Shamrocks), Ted Dunne (Graignamanagh), Donagh Murphy (Mount Leinster Rangers, Carlow), James McEvoy (Lisdowney), Sean Hunt (St Martin’s), Ben Whitty (Danesfort), Rory Glynn (Clara), Mark Holohan (O’Loughlin Gaels), Billy Dowling (Graigue-Ballycallan), Cathal Hickey (St Lachtain’s), Sean Keenan (Dicksboro), Tomas Roche (John Lockes), Matthew Kelleher (Dicksboro), Ciaran Nolan (St Martins), Johnny Keane (Dicksboro), Mick Carroll (Dicksboro), Robert Ring (Conahy Shamrocks), Andrew McEvoy (Lisdowney), Ben Phelan (Young Irelands), Cathal Keegan (St Martins), Rory Connellan (Thomastown), Conor Kavanagh (Dicksboro), James Hughes (Bennettsbridge), Tom Cleere (Shamrocks), Ed McDermott (James Stephens), Tom Brennan (Clough-Ballacolla, Laois), Shane Glynn (James Stephens).
Management – Brian Dowling, Michael Walsh, Richie Ruth.