'Awesome' Kieran's seal 20th title
St Kieran's 1-15 Thurles CBS 1-12
Published 06/04/2015 | 02:30
At St Kieran's, the achievements of emerging young hurlers are documented on an ever-expanding wall of fame.
Liam Smith's face is on it, having scored two points from centre-forward in the 1992 Croke Cup final victory over St Colman's, Fermoy.
And 23 years on, Smith is the man who masterminded a 20th crown - and back-to-back title - for St Kieran's at Semple Stadium on Saturday.
The Liam MacCarthy, Tommy Moore, Irish Press and Croke Cups all reside on Noreside. Hurling may be an evolutionary game but some things, it seems, remain constant.
"In Kieran's you're judged by what's up on the board and some of the boys are up there again. Some of them have two and it's unreal," said Smith.
"Any time I mention the wall the boys look at me and say, Sir, you used to have hair back then! Everyone that comes in looks at that wall."
St Kieran's desire for fresh success was unrelenting. Captain Seán Morrissey went into the game carrying a broken finger, and one second-half collision between outstanding defenders Tommy Walsh and Jason Cleere was X-rated.
Both players required medical attention; Walsh went off soon after but Cleere saw the game out and collected the man-of-the-match award.
Smith used the word "awesome" to describe his players on more than one occasion in post-match reflections.
Few could argue but Thurles CBS, foiled in their quest for a second Croke Cup success, played their part too in front of 3,852 spectators.
But there was always a feeling that the 2009 winners were clinging on.
They led just once and they needed a goalkeeping error to recover from a flat start, when Michael Connors took advantage to pilfer a 14th-minute goal.
But after Billy Ryan's defence-splitting pass set up Ray Lahart for the St Kieran's goal four minutes later, the end result was rarely in doubt.
Kieran's led from there all the way to the finish, holding off stout early second-half resistance from Thurles to protect a 1-10 to 1-7 interval lead.
Points from Jack Skehan and Niall Heffernan (free) got Thurles within touching distance but Kieran's responded with four unanswered points, cruising 1-14 to 1-9 clear.
Kevin Duggan and Connors kept the Thurles flame flickering but Heffernan missed a free with the Harty Cup holders three points down and Morrissey shot over for St Kieran's at the other end.
Robbie Long whipped a late effort narrowly over the crossbar as Thurles kept going right to the finish but this was another glory day for Kieran's.
Scorers - St Kieran's: R Lahart 1-5 (0-4fs, 0-1 '65'), B Ryan 0-3, R Leahy, S Morrissey 0-2 each, J Byrne, L Blanchfield, T O'Dwyer 0-1 each. Thurles CBS: M Connors 1-2, N Heffernan 0-5 (4f), J Skehan, R Heffernan, B McCarthy, K Duggan, R Long 0-1 each.
St Kieran's - A Mullen; M Cody, T Walsh, J Keoghan; J Barron, J Cleere, E Walsh; J Byrne, R Leahy; S Morrissey, L Blanchfield, J Connolly; R Lahart, B Ryan, T O'Dwyer. Subs: E Egan for Barron (47), Niall Walsh for Connolly (48), E Kearney for T Walsh (inj, 57), M Keoghan for E Walsh (60+2)
Thurles CBS - W Tierney; J Derby, E Heffernan, D Quirke; T Hayes, J Skehan, C McCullagh; R Heffernan, C Moloney; B McCarthy, K Duggan, N Heffernan; M Connors, R Long, R Teehan. Subs: P Kennedy for Moloney (39), B Kelly for Duggan (59), J Butler for R Heffernan (60+4).
Ref - J Keenan (Wicklow)