Bragging rights up for grabs in all-Kilkenny Leinster final
IT'S often said that familiarity breeds contempt, and with just one kilometre separating them in the heart of the Marble City it's no wonder the rivalry between Kilkenny CBS and St Kieran's College is so intense.
Such is their dominance in recent years - sharing the last seven Leinster Colleges Senior Hurling championships - they are regularly on a collision course to rule the roost and claim provincial honours.
With 54 senior titles to their name, compared to their city rivals' haul of eight, St Kieran's are streets ahead in the history books, but CBS senior boss Matthew Ruth feels they have stepped out of their shadow.
It was a "dream come true" to land his first teaching post in his alma mater and after missing out on a Leinster title as a student, he took great pride in their final victories over St Kieran's in 2013 and '14.
With 13 years spent on Stephens Street as student or teacher, the former Kilkenny forward is an obvious candidate to lead the senior side, and with many clubmates in direct opposition, he's revelling in the build-up to tomorrow's Leinster decider.
"There's a great buzz around the town, most people have gone to either Kieran's or CBS and have their sides. There's serious bragging rights at stake and it's something the whole town talks about for the week," the four-time All-Ireland winner said.
"The three city clubs will all have players on both panels as well as Ballyhale Shamrocks, Graigue Ballycallan and Danesfort. Lads who went to primary school together and have grown up together will end up marking each other, it's always a unique situation."
With ten of the Cats minor squad in their ranks, CBS have a star-studded side; Sean Bolger is a winner of every major Kilkenny club honour from Féile to a senior crown with O'Loughlin Gaels despite still being a Leaving Cert student.
Niall Brassil from James Stephens is another exciting prospect and played a central role in the league final defeat of St Kieran's before Christmas, but their opponents are not short on talent either with Ciaran Brennan appearing for Ireland's U-16 soccer side against Hungary this week.
Ruth has no fear that the standard of underage players in Kilkenny is slipping, saying: "With several good players coming through, ourselves and Kieran's getting to All-Ireland finals is a testament to that."
And despite St Kieran's winning the last three All-Ireland Colleges titles, Kilkenny CBS have been "tit for tat" with them in the past decade with Ruth hoping the hurling culture fostered by principal Tom Clarke will bear further fruit in Nowlan Park tomorrow.
"We boast that no student is left behind. As soon as they come in, anyone that wants to hurl in first and second year hurls every week for the whole year and at lunchtime they're always pucking around," he said.
"Third and fourth years do core work during lunch and seniors are in the gym. There's a good buzz around the gym every lunch time with lads pucking around or bettering themselves in some way. There's a great hurling atmosphere here."