Ardscoil Ris, Limerick 1-17 St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny 0-15
On the fourth request, Niall Moran and Ardscoil Rís finally won the Croke Cup Final against St Kieran’s College.
David Kennedy was the game breaker at Croke Park on that occasion with 1-3 and the crucial 56th-minute goal that finally separated two old foes.
Ardscoil Rís of Limerick City has played in three previous All-Ireland Senior University finals in 2010, 2011 and 2016 and lost narrowly to Kilkenny’s St Kieran’s on each occasion.
Former Limerick star Moran was part of the school’s management team for the final four. So he came to this one laden with baggage and heartache and admitted he was extremely emotional at the final whistle.
It wasn’t a typical encounter with Ardscoil Rís playing a seventh defender – the highly effective Cian Scully – but it didn’t matter with the victory all that mattered after all those previous final failures.
“We had lost the few All-Irelands and you could say we probably didn’t show up in one of them,” Moran said.
“We could have been told that you were just not able to overcome Kieran, that you are soft and that you are weak.
“Before that, we removed the fact that we were playing against Kieran, it was just that we were playing against an opposition. It kind of held us together.
The nervousness of both teams was still there at the start and it was not until Ardscoil Rís escaped with seven points in a row before half-time that both teams regained their form.
Niall O’Farrell, who overcame an AC joint problem to start, scored five of those points, and 0-8 on aggregate, helping the battered Harty Cup finalists lead 0-11 to 0-6 at the half time.
Evan O’Leary was also terrific in defense for Ardscoil Rís, while co-captain Shane O’Brien and Kennedy, who scored 1-3 on aggregate, put in impressive displays.
Kieran’s, 23 times consecutive champions and winners in 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic break, has slowly but surely returned to the competition.
Joe Fitzpatrick was a powerful centre-back and scored four points in all, while three scores from Ben Whitty cut the deficit to just two points with four minutes remaining.
Ardscoil Rís responded impressively, first with Kennedy’s goal which was set up by sub Dylan Lynch, then with a point from Lynch himself to put daylight between the sides.
ARDSCOIL RIS: S Gully; E O’Leary, J Fitzgerald, C Flynn; C Scully, M Gavin, B O’Keeffe; V Harrington, JJ Carey; R O’Byrne (0-1), O O’Farrell, S O’Brien (0-3); J Golden (0-1), N O’Farrell (0-8, four franks, a 65), D Kennedy (1-3).
Subtitles: R McNamara for Fitzgerald (38 min-f/t, blood), D Lynch (0-1) for Flynn (49), D Stritch for O’Byrne (59,) S McMahon for O’Keffee (60).
ST KIERAN COLLEGE: A Dunphy; J Butler, A O’Connor, P Lennon; P Langton (0-1), J Fitzpatrick (0-4, one free), C Cody; J Carroll (0-1), K Doyle; L Connellan, T Dunne, B Whitty (0-4, one free, one 65); P Naddy (0-1), H Shine (0-3, one free), D Murphy (0-1).
Subtitles: A Ireland Wall for Naddy (42 min), A Sheridan for Murphy (52), N Doheny for Dunne (56).
Arbitrator: L Gordon (Galway).