Naas CBS hope to make history in Hogan Cup Final
Saturday April 6
Masita All-Ireland Post Primary Schools 'A' Football Final (Hogan Cup)
St Michaels, Enniskillen v Naas CBS, Croke Park, 2.45pm (TG4)
By Damian Lawlor
Last weekend, Naas CBS travelled south to Mallow and put Post-Primary giants Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne to the sword.
In doing so, they qualified for their first Hogan Cup final against St Michael's College Enniskillen on Saturday in Croke Park.
In the semi-final CBS controlled the middle third of the pitch to such an extent that they shot eight wides in the first half, saw Alex Beirne miss a 21st-minute penalty, and still managed to beat the Dingle side by six points, 0-20 – 0-14.
“I wondered if we would live to rue those chances,” wondered manager Ronan Joyce.
“But all year long we have been telling these lads just to focus on the next ball and they have done that.”
That’s exactly what they did against PS Chorca Dhuibhne.
Two fine points from the talented Mikey McGovern after half time helped the Kildare side regain their composure and they never looked back from there.
Incredibly, for an underdog, between the 47th and 52nd minute they outscored their opponents by four points.
Dingle even brought their goalkeeper Deividas Uosis to play out the field late on but there was no salvation for Eamonn Fitzmaurice's side.
Instead, Joyce was the one overjoyed at the final whistle.
But since then he has faced the challenging task of bringing his side quickly down to earth.
"It was a serious battle," the manager admitted of their semi-final tussle.
"We got a run on them in the second-half and our forwards hit form. We just pulled enough clear that we could sit back and absorb their late pressure that we knew would come.
"We now have a massive day to look forward to but occasions will not get to the players we have. You never know what can happen on the day but we are looking forward to it.”
The big day should not upset Naas.
Many of their team played in the Leinster minor final last season and some of the players have two provincial titles, so they should be well equipped to deal with the pressure.
But they will have to deal with ravenous hunger from their opponents as St Michael’s have lost both Hogan Cup finals they previously played in.
St Michael's coach Dom Corrigan hopes Saturday will prove third time lucky for his side as they try to claim the biggest prize of all at schools' level.
Corrigan wants to atone for the previous two defeats (2002 and 2012) endured by their predecessors.
St Michael's played Naas CBS earlier in the year in a challenge match and the sides drew.
The experienced Corrigan is hopeful they can go a step further and gain a win at the weekend.
"We are in a great place to win the trophy and are delighted to have this opportunity," he says.
"We knew that it was going to be very difficult in our semi-final last Saturday and while there is only a short turnaround, the boys are in great fettle."
Naas know they will have to keep a close eye on Conor Love, Darragh McBrien, Michael Glynn and Caolan Duffy but they have enough hunger and talent in their own ranks to bring the game to any opposition.
The return of Kildare minor Paddy McDermott from injury at this crucial time is a huge boost.
McDermott brings serious energy and presence to the Naas set-up and is one of their most reliable performers.
It’s a real purple patch for the Kildare school.
Last year both the senior hurlers and footballers had impressive runs and team selector Shane McGuinness says those at CBS realise they have plenty of talent on their books.
“The work done over the past two seasons is paying off,” says the Mayo native.
“There is good talent in the group, and it was the same last year. They work very hard and they are getting what they deserve.”
Following last year’s maiden victory at provincial senior level, Naas this year became the first school since St Pat’s, Navan in 2007 to string together back-to-back Br Bosco Cup crowns.
They want that run to continue.
“I guess the thing is that we have pretty much a new Naas CBS team this year,” McGuinness adds.
“This side has just four survivors from the 2018 side.
“They are David Morrissey in goal, our defenders Conall O’Gallchobhair and Jack Hamill and forward Tony O’Connor.
“We have had a good junior side as well in recent years and I would say that about 11 of them have stepped up onto this current senior panel.”
CBS had to wait for a long time to complete this year’s Leinster campaign because their opponents Colaiste Eoin were caught up in a delayed hurling schedule.
Since overcoming the Stillorgan side they have had a short turnaround from retaining their Leinster crown to facing down the esteemed Munster champions.
They’ll be hoping to break further new ground on Saturday in Croke Park.