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Thursday 17 April 2014

St Brendans can deliver historic treble

Pádraig Boyle, Kerry. Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling Under 21 All-Ireland 'B' Championship Final, Kerry v Kildare, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

WHEN your luck is in, your luck is in.

After twenty three years without a county senior hurling title, St Brendans finally bridged the gap. A couple of weeks later they claimed a famous double as their minors took victory against Causeway. On Saturday afternoon they face Ballyduff with an almost unprecedented treble on the line – the last time it was achieved was 1979 by Causeway.

Of course, luck has had very little to do with St Brendans' success this year. These have been successes built on hard work, determination and meticulous planning. County championship winning minors teams don't just emerge overnight. Same goes for title chasing Under 21s.

The future is certainly bright for the Ardfert outfit. Eight of the team likely to line out against Ballyduff were members of the senior squad – goalkeeper Ryan Delaney, full-back Kevin Hannafin, wing-back Fionán Horgan, centre-back Kevin Orpen, midfielder Daithí Griffin, wing-forwards Gearóid Sills and Kieran Fitzgerald and corner-forward Cian Hussey.

That's a lot of talent. All eyes will, of course, be on young Hussey. He was dazzling at times for the county champions during the championships, particularly in the drawn final against Lixnaw. His surging runs caused a whole lot of trouble.

It's for that reason that you'd have to imagine either Jason Bowler or David Goulding – Ballyduff's two best defenders – will pick him up. There's a touch of class about Goulding in particular, he's a very tidy, efficient hurler. Playing at centre-back he'll have a huge influence on this game.

Overall you'd have to say that Ballyduff have that little bit more talent up front – Anthony O'Carroll, the brilliant Padraig Boyle, Kevin O'Connor and the explosive PJ Connolly stand out in particular.

In fairness there's plenty of flair on both sides. Kerry minor footballer Jack Savage is a fine hurler for St Brendans, for example. It's just a shame that this game is being played at the time of year that it is. December 21 is not the time of year for hurling.

At the North Kerry football final at the weekend, despite the best efforts of the groundsmen at host club Tarbert, the pitch wasn't in the best shape – how could it be after the weekend of rain we just experienced? – Austin Stack Park is likely to be in better nick, but still you get the idea: conditions are not as conducive to skill at this time of year as you'd like them to be.

Given the numbers of replays in the senior championship this year it's somewhat understandable that this competition has dragged out, nevertheless it makes little sense that a competition containing just eight teams (seven if you don't include Ballyheigue who conceeded a walkover) couldn't have been played before now.

To whoever lays claim to the cup on Saturday that won't matter, of course, and who might that be? Ballyduff would seem to be at least as good as St Brendans, but with the hand of history resting on their shoulders St Brendans might just find that little bit extra they need.

Like we said, when your luck is in, your luck is in.

Verdict: St Brendans

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