Croke and Buggy Cup Finals:
Saturday, March 25th
Masita All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Senior A Hurling Championship (Croke Cup) Final
Our Lady’s Templemore v St Kieran’s College in Semple Stadium, Thurles at 4pm.
*This game will be preceded by the All-Ireland B colleges hurling final between St John the Baptist, Hospital and St Mary’s CGBS Belfast (throw-in 2pm).
FAMILY links define the GAA in so many ways.
Apart from tight-knit communities, families are the glue that keep GAA clubs bound together.
And in Post Primary Schools hurling and football links between clans going down the generations are even more tangible. Once again in this weekend’s eagerly-awaited Croke Cup final there are again strong bonds to famous players of the past.
This year’s St. Kieran’s team are the latest bearers of a glorious tradition with sons of two former Kilkenny legends, DJ Carey and Adrian Ronan, playing on the current side.
DJ and Adrian won a Croke Cup together with St. Kieran’s in 1988 and their sons Mikey and Tommy line out together on Saturday. The unusual aspect of this is that both players perform in defence, with Mikey on the edge of the square and Tommy beside him in the corner!
On the Our Lady’s Templemore side, Brian McGrath is their Talisman. Brian captained last year’s Tipp minors and his father, Pat, won a Colleges title himself in 1978.
Indeed, Tipperary schools have only won the Croke Cup on a total of three occasions – including that win in 1978 when Templemore CBS saw off St Peter’s College, Wexford 2-11 to 1-4.
In 2009 Thurles CBS beat another Wexford side, Good Counsel, 1-17 to 1-15 and in 2012 Donach O’Donnell’s Nenagh CBS side came back from disappointment in the Harty Cup final to come through the back door and beat Kilkenny CBS 3-10 to 2-1.
This Saturday, Our Lady’s are up against the giants of the game who have won a record 21 Dr Croke Cups and are chasing an historic four-in-a-row. Hurling at the college is very much a rite of passage and St Kieran’s have dominated this competition, winning it five times since 2010.
While the four in-a-row has been achieved before – St Flannan’s did it in the mid to late 1940’s – St Kieran’s have never managed it although they have been close when they won in three successive years in the late 1980s.
Since 2010 St Kieran’s College have held the Indian sign over Árdscoil Rís, beating them in three finals (2010, 2011 & 2016). They have also held the edge on Kilkenny CBS who they beat in 2014 and a year later they defeated Thurles CBS by three points. They recently claimed a 55th Leinster Colleges with another win over Kilkenny CBS and then made light work of St Brigid’s Loughrea in the All-Ireland semi-final.
The astonishing feat of reaching another final is that only two survivors remain from the 2016 Croke Cup team on the current side – although they are hugely significant players. Ballyhale Shamrocks’ Adrian Mullen is simply lethal (he managed 2-9 against St Brigid’s and has been inspired all the way through this campaign). Tullaroan’s Martin Keoghan is the other remaining link to last season and is placed at centre-back.
Last year Liam Smith, who managed St Kieran’s to a three-in-a-row of All-Ireland titles from 2014 to last year, stepped down but Tom Hogan has continued the excellent work.
Meanwhile, Our Lady’s, an amalgamation of two schools Templemore CBS and the Convent of Mercy, merged for educational purposes in 1985. They depend heavily on local clubs to supply their players.
“We owe so much to the clubs that feed players into our school, the likes of Loughmore- Castleiney, JK Brackens, part of Drom & Inch, Templederry Kenyons, Clonakenny, Moyne Templetuohy, part of Toomevara, Errill and Killea,” says team mentor Noel Fogarty.
“Without them we don’t have the playing resources. So we are grateful to all of them.
Fogarty makes no mention of the fact that he scored two goals in the 1978 Harty Cup final, helping to help turn a nine-point deficit into a two-point win.
“We have produced so many great players over the years for Tipperary,” Fogarty quips, instead preferring to look to other past stars who walked through the corridors. “From Bobby and Aidan Ryan, from Pat McGrath to the current Tipp manager, Mick Ryan, we have had so many fine players.
“We became a big player in all Munster and Tipperary colleges’ competitions as the years went on but we had to wait from ’78 to this year to win a second Harty Cup final. That is despite having
the likes of David Kennedy, the Dunne brothers, Paul Ormond, Noel Morris, Noel and John McGrath, Gearóid Ryan and Colin O’Riordan with us over the years.”
Buggy Cup Final set to be a Cracker:
IT has been a massive GAA year in general for John The Baptist who won Munster Senior ‘A’ and Junior ‘A’ Ladies football honours as well as excelling in camogie.
The Hospital-based school have already lifted the Corn Thomais MhicChoilm in Munster hurling after a season that also saw them reach the semi-final stage of the prestigious Dean Ryan Cup.
Along the way to this particular final they have etched out wins over Glanmire, Mitchelstown and CBS Dungarvan and in the Munster final they scored a very impressive 1-19 against Rice College, Ennis, but also conceded three goals which they must watch out for.
And with players like Tipperary minor Paul O’Heney at centre half back, Limerick minors Michael O’Grady and Dylan O’Shea at midfield and Paudie Maher at centre-forward, the Limerick school is exceptionally strong in pivotal areas.
Their opponents, Danske Bank Mageean Cup champions St Mary’s CBGS, are also a fine team.
They showed their battling qualities when they booked a spot in today’s final with a hard-fought win over a fast-developing Naas CBS.
In Shea Shannon, St Mary’s have a very reliable free-taker and, especially in finals, reliable free-takers can often be the difference between winning and losing.
St Mary’s CBGS roared into 0-3 to 0-0 lead against the Kildare school early on and one suspects they will try to do the same again this afternoon – get off to a ferocious start to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of the John The Baptist players.
In that regard live-wire forward Odhran O’Callaghan and colleague Tiarnan Murphy will have to be watched very closely by their Limerick opponents, as they are in great form at present.
St Mary’s are a wise side and even though they played a strong second-half breeze in the Buggy Cup semi-final they still showed enough cuteness to come through, with players like Paddy Doyle scoring at critical times.
It could be telling that they have endured a very tough campaign to get to the final and are battle-hardened.
However, so, too, are John the Baptist Community School who battled hard to get to this stage and dug out a three-point win, 1-10- 1-7, over St Joseph’s Galway in their semi-final.
Michael Cusack Final:
We will have a review and reaction to the Masita GAA Michael Cusack Cup final (SH’C’) between St Augustine’s Dungarvan and St Fintan’s HS next week. This final is being played at Thomastown on March 24th.
St. Peter’s reach Hogan Cup Final:
FAMILY links are again evident in St Peter’s march to the Hogan Cup final.
Rory O’Connor, son of former Wexford hurler, John, scored a cracking 41st-minute goal into the wind and that proved crucial as his side fended off a late surge from St Mary’s Magherafelt to edge home in a thrilling Masita All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools SFC ‘A’ semi-final at Inniskeen on Wednesday.
They play St Brendan’s at the end of March.
With the wind dominating in this week’s semi-final, St Peter’s set about imposing themselves early on but a skillful Mary’s outfit packed midfield in a bid to nullify the influence of O’Connor, and the scoring threat of his cousin Barry O’Connor, son of Wexford legend, George, and Cathal Devereux.
“We are on a high here in Wexford,” says Brian Malone, who manages the St Peter’s team with Chris Thompson.
“It’s been a great week for football here – with the college win on Wednesday and the county senior footballers getting promotion at the weekend,” added Malone, the Wexford team captain.
“We have not been strong at underage level in the county in recent years and we are really depending on the schools to provide our players for the future.
“Great players like Matty Forde and David Murphy have come back into the system to give back and it’s looking a lot brighter now.
“But we have to watch our players. Many of them are playing hurling and football for their schools, clubs and county minor teams. Some of them have three games in a week. We have to look out for them first and foremost.”