Naas captain Brian Byrne lifts the cup as he celebrates with teammates after their victory in the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Intermediate Club Championship Final.
Naas captain Brian Byrne lifts the cup as he celebrates with teammates after their victory in the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Intermediate Club Championship Final.

AIB Club IHC Final: Naas take another step on an incredible journey

AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club Hurling Championship Final


Kevin Egan at Croke Park

Kildare senior football and hurling champions, Leinster Intermediate hurling champions and senior football finalists, and now AIB All-Ireland Intermediate Club champions – Naas GAA club added another chapter to a year-long story that will live long in the memory of everyone associated with the club, and with Kildare GAA.

Tom Mullally’s side arrived at Croke Park this evening having recorded comfortable wins over all opponents inside and outside their home county this year, and when they moved six points clear early in the second half, and with the wind at their back, it looked like a similar tale was unfolding this time around.

They had controlled the middle third of the field, they had a far greater range of scoring threats close to goal, and even their full-back line, very much the unsung heroes in this group, were dominant in their roles, having restricted their direct opponents to just a single score.

However in Kilmoyley hurling club, and their manager John Meyler, Naas were faced with an opponent imbued with a ferocious competitive streak, and through sheer force of will, the North Kerry club forced a dramatic finale, one in which all they craved was one more chance to test Cormac Gallagher in the Naas goal.

That chance never came and so Naas will go into the record books as the first Kildare club to win an All-Ireland club hurling title, and just their county’s second AIB club championship winner ever, following 2014 Junior football winners and next-door neighbours Twomilehouse into the record books.

The foundations for Naas’ victory were laid in the first half, when Tom Mullally’s side hurled into the breeze but exerted a measure of control in most sectors of the field. Daniel Collins fired over the first two points of the game, one from a free and one from play, but Naas took over from there as they set about building an 0-11 to 0-7 interval lead. Two superb points from Brian Byrne got them up and running, but it was their tenacity and workrate in the tackle at defence and midfield that really discommoded a lively Kilmoyley attack.

Jordan Brick picked off two good points from play but aside from the Kerry star forward on the right wing, Kilmoyley were heavily dependent on frees, with Collins was in very solid form. Meanwhile Shane Ryan was very lively in the corner of the Naas attack, while Rian Boran added an well-taken point from distance to an excellent all round performance at midfield.

The first attack of the second half saw James Burke run though on goal from a tight angle, and while in different circumstances he might have gone for goal, instead he chose to whip the sliothar over the bar and keep the scores coming. Jack Sheridan followed up with a free to push the gap out to six, but a couple of Kilmoyley substitutions sharpened up their attacking unit, while improvement all over the field in terms of tackling and fighting for breaks gradually brought the Kerry club back into the game.

0-14 to 0-8 became 0-14 to 0-11 as the rain poured down on Croke Park, with Paudie O’Connor and Jordan Brick firing over scores that raised the temperature in the famous stadium.

A free from Sheridan, earned for a foul on Kevin Aherne, might have stemmed the tide but instead, with the next attack, substitutes Ronan Walsh and Daire Nolan saw the arm of referee Chris Mooney outstretched to show advantage and they took the chance to go for goal, with Nolan’s low shot flashing inside Cormac Gallagher’s near post.

In a tight finish, Kilmoyley had a couple of chances to level but Daniel Collins failed to hit the target, and in a dramatic six-minute period of added time, the only score came from James Burke, who read a Kilmoyley pass and pounced to intercept and strike a point that forced the Kerry club to forlornly chase a goal in the dying minutes.

Scorers for Naas: Jack Sheridan 0-4f, Brian Byrne 0-3, Shane Ryan 0-3, Rian Boran 0-2, Simon Leacy 0-2, James Burke 0-2.

Scorers for Kilmoyley: Daniel Collins 0-7 (0-5f), Daire Nolan 1-0, Jordan Brick 0-2, Maurice O’Connor 0-1, Paudie O’Connor 0-1.

Naas: Cormac Gallagher; John McKeon, Richard Hogan, Conor Gormley; Seán Gainey, Ross Kelly, Kevin Whelan; Rian Boran, Simon Leacy; James Burke, Brian Byrne, Kevin Aherne; Cathal Dowling, Jack Sheridan, Shane Ryan.

Subs: Conan Boran for Kelly (45-48, blood), Conan Boran for McKeon (52), Conor Dowling for Cathal Dowling (55), Kevin Kelleher for Aherne (60+1), Ian Blackburne for Sheridan (60+5)

Kilmoyley: John B O’Halloran; Donal Kennedy, Colman Savage, Flor McCarthy; Robert Collins, Dougie Fitzell, Thomas Murnane; Matthew Flaherty, Paudie O’Connor; Jordan Brick, Daniel Collins, David McCarthy; Kieran McCarthy, James Godley, Maurice O’Connor.

Subs: Ronan Walsh for K McCarthy (38), Daire Nolan for D McCarthy (45), Seán Maunsell for Godley (60+1), Kieran McCarthy for Walsh (60+2).

Referee: Chris Mooney (Dublin)