Tiernan Leen impressed for Athenry today (file photo). Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Kilkenny-Galway All-Ireland final in store as St Kieran's and Athenry triumph

St Brendan’s Park in Birr hosted today’s semi-final double-header.


All-Ireland senior A hurling Croke Cup semi-finals

  • St Kieran’s (Kilkenny) 3-13 Cashel CS 2-9
  • Presentation Athenry 0-15 Thurles CBS 0-14


THE 2023 CROKE Cup final will be a repeat of the 2018 and 2019 deciders where St. Kieran’s College overcame Presentation Athenry sides chasing their maiden victory in this competition.

The manner of the two teams’ victories this afternoon in Birr means that the traditional powerhouse side from Kilkenny will be the warmest of favourites to condemn the westerners to yet more heartbreak on St. Patrick’s Day in Croke Park.

While Presentation College scraped past Thurles CBS by 0-15 to 0-14 in a tense encounter where defensive players were completely on top throughout, St. Kieran’s College ransacked the Harty Cup champions Cashel Community School for three second-quarter goals, as they overcame a dreadful start to secure a 3-13 to 2-9 win.

Inside forwards Bobby Power and Ronan Connolly quickly hit the ground running in the opening contest, as Connolly’s catch and finish after eight minutes helped push Cashel 1-4 to 0-1 in front.

In the blink of an eye, the lead was almost completely eradicated however, as Pádraig Naddy and Ted Dunne fired points either side of a gorgeous instinctive one-handed flick from Donagh Murphy for the opening St. Kieran’s goal.

By the 20 minute mark, the famous Kilkenny school were in front, as they took advantage of a huge stroke of luck. A shot from Murphy from a very tight angle crashed back into play off the upright, and Dunne pounced to seize the rebound and whip it to the net.

Cashel rallied to level the game at 2-3 to 1-6, but to only be level after having much the better of the first 25 minutes would have felt like an injustice, and St. Kieran’s didn’t waste any time in piling on the pain, adding another 1-3 before the break. Jeff Neary’s interchange of passes with Naddy and classy finish from 50 metres was the highlight score in terms of pure quality, but in terms of driving a dagger to the heart of the Munster champions, Harry Shine’s jump and flick on Bill Hughes’ long shot just before half-time was the crucial score.

As they had done in the first half, Cashel came out of the blocks strongly after half-time, and while they missed three good scoring chances, a point from Power was the only score in the first 12 minutes, before the same player pounced on a breaking ball to fire in a goal.

With St. Kieran’s on the rack, Connolly had another glorious goal chance, but an immaculately-timed hook from Pádraig Naddy averted the danger, and for the fourth quarter, St. Kieran’s returned to the ascendancy and cruised to victory. Harry Shine scored 1-6 for the winners, a total matched by Cashel’s Ronan Connolly, while Ted Dunne struck 1-2 for St Kieran’s.

harry-shine-celebrates-scoring-a-point Tom Maher / INPHO Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

In the second contest, defensive units were on top throughout, and while scoring rates improved after the first ten minutes, by which time there was just a point each on the board, it was the class of Tiernán Leen at midfield for Presentation College that made all the difference.

Aside from a 60 second spell in the first half, there was never more than two points between the teams, and it was Thurles who looked like thy might be better poised to finish strongly when when a run of points from Maher, Joe Egan and Robbie Ryan gave them their only lead of the game.

Excellent defensive displays from Aaron McDonagh and Seán Murphy ensured that Presentation College stayed well in touch during this phase, and gradually they worked their way back into the ascendancy, largely on the back of Aaron Niland’s freetaking, as  he finished with 0-9 overall.

aaron-niland-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Aaron Niland bagged 0-9 for Athenry (file photo). Ken Sutton / INPHO Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

Leen, who bagged 0-4 in the game, continued to offer a touch of class in the middle third and he struck an inspirational score in the 52nd minute, hot on the heels of a similarly fantastic score from Liam Doyle at the other end.

And in general, that was how it went – Thurles CBS coming up with a point, but never finding a way to get their noses back in front.

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