St. Joseph’s were not to be denied joining Harty honours list
By Shane Brophy
“Dreams come true” has been the motto of this Nenagh CBS team since they first came together last August, and the 2023/2024 squad finally broke the duck for the school by winning their first Harty Cup title in memorable fashion on Saturday.
Winning it in any manner would have done considering their four previous final losses in the 106 year old competition, but Hollywood couldn’t have scripted the ending better if they tried.
Patrick Kearney’s outstanding individual point was a worthy match-clincher in itself for Ardscoil Ris when he put them into a two point lead in the second of the two minutes of added time signalled.
There was time for one more play, but the manner of their semi-final win over Charleville CBS where they also conjured up an injury time goal, they knew it was possible, if they could just get the ball into the danger area.
Overall, Ardscoil Ris had more of the better individual players in the game but Nenagh were the better team and their desire was never more in evidence than in that last play as not once, not twice, but three times they kept the ball alive in search of the goal they needed, with finally wing back Andy Hoolan being the hero of the hour with the best scrappy goal finish he will ever make.
While there was a subsequent puckout, you knew that was it and while it was hard on Ardscoil Ris, their second final defeat in three years, this was 34 years of hurt finally evaporating for St Joseph’s CBS as they finally get their name of the famed roll of honour.
This game was all that is good about schools hurling, two well-drilled teams, playing in front of a big crowd with Cusack Park providing the ideal venue for the three-thousand crowd and it created a special atmosphere, and the Munster Post Primary Council must be commended for the occasion with the pipe-band, making it feel every bit a final it was.
This was a terrific match, helped by both sides getting into their stride early, showing few nerves. It was crucial, in particular, that Nenagh did so, as the underdog, because in the previous four final losses, they started slowly and were as good as beaten at half time.
And who else only captain Darragh McCarthy to get them off an running with a point from play after 77 seconds, and from there they hurled with freedom. The Nenagh skipper started off at centre-forward and was man-marked by Riain McNamara with Jamie Moylan sitting as the sweeper, which made it difficult for McCarthy to find space.
However, there was a buzz of expectation every time he got on the ball, including setting up Mason Cawley for the first of his three points from play, one of those players that needed to step up to take the scoring load off McCarthy as they knew Ardscoil Ris could be keeping a close eye on them.
As you would expect, Ardscoil Ris are a well-coached team, playing a lot like the Limerick side with players confidence on the ball, and changing the point of attack. Marc O’Brien was a constant threat in attack, particularly in the second half, while in the first it was joint-captain Fintan Fitzgerald who was causing Nenagh fits, with four points from play.
Despite Nenagh having an extra body at the back, Ardscoil were able to find space and were able to get shots off a little easier as they eased into a 0-9 to 0-5 lead after eighteen minutes.
The game was starting to get away from Nenagh when Darragh McCarthy slipped his marker for the first time and set-up a goal chance for Darragh Treacy which didn’t come to anything but the play was called back for a free which he converted.
Nenagh were hurting Ardscoil when they took them on and were boosted by the introduction of super-sub Austin Duff. The Toomevara clubman would start in most other teams but is their difference maker off the bench and within three minutes he had scored 1-1, the goal finishing off a good move involving Jack Mulcahy and Aodhan O’Connor.
Eoghan Doughan also had a big first half and his third point from play ensured the game was finely poised for the second half at 1-8 to 0-11.
Doughan’s influence in the first half saw Ardscoil Ris move midfielder Matthew O’Halloran to corner back and he managed to negate the Moneygall clubman but Nenagh made a key switch off their own with Ciaran Foley moving to centre back from where Fintan Fitzgerald’s impact was negated.
It helped that Ardscoil looked to bypass the Nenagh half-back line with pinpoint deliveries into Marc O’Brien who has a lot of Lar Corbett elements to his game, and certainly caused no end of problems.
But Nenagh were the same at the other end as they forced Ardscoil Ris into handling errors with their workrate with Mason Cawley’s hard-running leading to two points while Darragh McCarthy’s tally also grew.
Enjoying a two-point lead on 42 minutes, Nenagh were enjoying their best period of the game but Ardscoil Ris had too much quality to feel any pressure with sub Darragh Gleeson prominent while Eoin Begley and Fintan Fitzgerald adding to their tallies, although the withdrawal of Daniel Chaplin seemed strange as he was prominent.
While the switch of Ciaran Foley from midfield to centre-back was defensive in its priority, it also created an attacking threat such is his proficiency with long range shooting as was seen in 2022 when he played a key role in Tipp’s run to the All-Ireland minor title. He was at it again with back to back ling rangers and with time running out, it was Nenagh with their noses in front, 1-16 to 0-18.
Michael Collins was another Ardscoil forward to impress and a following his third point from play to level, he won the free which Marc O’Brien converted to nudge them in front going into the two minutes of added time, in which from a Nenagh point of view, we got the perfect ending!