In attendance at the Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Championships captain's call at Croke Park in Dublin is Joe Fitzpatrick, left, and Conor Cody of St Kieran's College, Kilkenny, and Vince Harrington of Ardscoil Ris, Limerick. The Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Croke Cup and the Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Hogan Cup will be played in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March 2022.
In attendance at the Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Championships captain's call at Croke Park in Dublin is Joe Fitzpatrick, left, and Conor Cody of St Kieran's College, Kilkenny, and Vince Harrington of Ardscoil Ris, Limerick. The Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Croke Cup and the Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Hogan Cup will be played in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March 2022. 

St. Kieran's College eye yet another Croke Cup


By John Harrington

Thursday’s Masita GAA Post Primary Schools Croke Cup (SH ‘A’) Final is a return to normality in more ways than one.

Not only is the first Croke Cup Final since 2019, it will feature St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny in a decider for the seventh Final in a row.

Covid-19 might have disrupted the Post Primary Schools GAA calendar for the past two years, but it’s clearly done little to diminish the proud tradition of hurling in St. Kieran’s.

The most successful school in the history of this competition by a significant margin, they’ve been especially dominant of late, winning five of the last six Finals.

That sort of success doesn’t happen by accident. Hurling is deeply embedded in the school’s culture where you have the perfect cocktail of large numbers of pupils obsessed with the sport combined with teachers with a great knack of coaching the game.

“Hurling is the lifeblood of the school, really,” says St. Kieran’s senior team mentor, Richie Ruth.

“You've 750-odd kids inside in the school and up to 600 walk in the gates every morning with a hurl in their hand. You send them to do a job down to another teacher in the school and they'll bring their hurley and ball with them, it's an extension of their arm really.

“We're lucky that we have so many pitches around the school as well so they all have their own areas to play on at lunch-time as well so it's great.

“I'm a practical teacher and when they come to my room you'd have a big stack of hurleys outside the door. That would be a common view around the school.

“Hurling is an excellent distraction but it provides discipline for kids as well. And it can be a nice way to relax and unwind for the lads who are doing their Leaving Cert.”

Their progression to this year’s All-Ireland Final against Ard Scoil Rís of Limerick is proof that you should never underestimate a St. Kieran’s, College hurling team.

They were defeated in the Leinster semi-final by a Dublin South team subsequently well-beaten in the Leinster Final themselves by Good Counsel, but responded really impressively to that set-back.

The St. Kieran's College, Kilkenny team that will contest the Croke Cup Final in Croke Park on St. Patrick's Day. 
The St. Kieran's College, Kilkenny team that will contest the Croke Cup Final in Croke Park on St. Patrick's Day. 

They got back on track with a win over Kilkenny CBS in the All-Ireland preliminary round, then defeated Gort in the All-Ireland Quarter-Final before storming to a convincing victory over St. Joseph’s Tulla in the All-Ireland semi-final.

That victory over the Clare school was their best performance yet of the season, and all the more noteworthy because St. Joseph’s were very impressive Harty Cup winners in Munster.

“Coming from Thurles myself I'd always keep a close eye on the Harty Cup,” says former Thurles Sarsfields and Tipperary hurler, Ruth.

“Out of any year I can remember, it was such a competitive year. You had Mildleton, De La Salle, St. Colman's, Ard Scoil, Thurles CBS, CBC. I'm sure they all had their eyes on the prize.

“There were so many strong teams so for Tulla to come out on top from that Munster Championship was pretty amazing. We knew we had a huge challenge ahead of us in the semi-final and the scoreline certainly didn't reflect the battle that was throughout the 60 minutes.

“We got a couple of goals in 60 seconds that was the difference really over the course of the whole game.”

The one thing you can say with a good degree of certainty about the St. Patrick’s Day All-Ireland Final against Ard Scoil Rís in Croke Park is that it should be a serious match.

Second-level schools hurling has gotten stronger, and stronger in recent years, and both teams are stacked with players of inter-county pedigree.

“Yeah, hurling has developed so much.,” says Ruth. “Even the S&C that goes in behind it in all schools, the fitness levels are just really high now. You do need to be tactically aware going into these games as well because every team has their own structures and set-ups.

“It's definitely improving all the time and it's great for hurling and it's great for the kids to be exposed to that level of hurling as well.

“This final is going to be top-class. Ard Scoil had a fantastic win against Athenry in the quarter-final and again against Good Counsel in the semi-final, two teams that would have really been hoping to secure top honours this year. Two huge games and battles that they came through.

“We played Good Counsel earlier on in the year and we drew that game in a titanic battle down in New Ross. For Ard Scoil to get through that semi-final, it's no mean feat. We know that they're coming, they're a serious team with great experience throughout it and a very good balance.

“We know we've a big challenge ahead, but both teams will feel like they have momentum. When you have a quarter-final and semi-final in quick succession it's lovely to get two wins under your belt.

“But this is a whole new game and it's fantastic that it's on in Croke Park.”

Thursday, March 17

Masita GAA Post Primary Schools Croke Cup (Senior A Hurling)

Ardscoil Rís, Limerick v St. Kieran's College, Kilkenny, Croke Park, 4pm