'Genius' of Cuddihy proves decisive as St Kieran's claim 21st Croke Cup
St Kieran's 1-15 Ardscoil Rís 1-13
They'll have to build a new 'wall of fame' in St Kieran's College at this rate.
A 21st Croke Cup title was secured in Thurles yesterday and while, at times, it might not have been pretty, it was effective as the competition specialists made it three-in-a-row with a two-point victory over Ardscoil Rís, who were denied a maiden crown.
Ardscoil must be sick of the sight of St Kieran's by now. In 2010 and 2011, their two previous final appearances, their conquerors on both occasions were yesterday's opponents.
It's an unwanted hat-trick and while Ardscoil were a point down in stoppage time, before Joe Connolly banged over a colossal insurance score, St Kieran's always looked to have the edge.
The sides were level five times before Joe Cuddihy, hailed as a "genius" by manager Liam Smith, scored a 22nd minute goal.
From there until the finish, St Kieran's led and the Kilkenny boys had major contributions from man of the match Cuddihy, gamekeeper turned poacher Adrian Mullen and Colum Prendiville.
Mullen was goalkeeper last year, and is a prolific forward this season, while Prendiville turned in another big performance after the former Ireland underage basketball international decided to give hurling a concerted effort for a spell.
Smith explained: "Colum will probably go back to basketball after the summer but he wanted to give hurling a shot and you saw him today. He's a big fella anyway but the more hurling he does, the better he gets. Joe Cuddihy got man of the match, he is brilliant. He is actually a genius."
But Cuddihy and Prendiville are overage for next season, along with all but two of yesterday's winning set-up.
Martin Keoghan and Mullen will lead the quest for a 22nd Croke Cup crown but this vintage will certainly be remembered for their exploits.
"We won the U14 league and then we didn't win another league or championship or anything since then," revealed Smith, who was rewarded for his patience.
"We knew these were good. The guy hitting the sidelines, Edmond Delaney, won a skills competition with full marks.
"That was Féile na nGael under-14 and Darren Mullen was a big loss, two cruciates and he comes back and does this. Adrian Mullen is only a kid, goalkeeper last year, only 16. An incredible hurler."
Smith added: "We have a front corridor, any famous past pupil that went to the school and so is on the wall. Now, we have 21 All-Ireland winning pictures up.
"There was a team from Antrim down and they are picking out (former Tipperary captain) Eoin Kelly.
"That is where they want to be and these guys have the ability to be up there as well, to be some of the best that we have seen in a long time."
In front of 3,328 spectators, St Kieran's led by 1-8 to 0-7 at half-time before Páraic O'Loughlin's goal in the first minute of the second half brought Ardscoil back into contention.
Cuddihy stepped up with three points in a row to move St Kieran's three points clear midway through the second half and while Ardscoil rallied again, this was another of day of glory for St Kieran's.
Paul O'Brien was scorer in chief for Ardscoil on a day when Peter Casey, a recent All-Ireland senior club winner with Na Piarsaigh and also the Limerick U21s last year, really struggled.
O'Brien hit all of his seven points from frees and 1-6 from play was never going to be enough for Ardscoil.
Scorers - Ardscoil Rís: P O'Brien 0-7f, P O'Loughlin 1-2, C Boylan 0-2, B Ryan & D Cunningham 0-1 each. St Kieran's: J Cuddihy 1-3, A Mullen 0-5 (3f), E Delaney & J Connolly 0-2 each, M Keoghan, C Prendiville & E Moylan 0-1 each.
ARDSCOIL RÍS: S Mullane; S Hogan, S Phelan, R Connolly; C Houlihan, J Boylan, N Fox; B Ryan, J Flynn; P O'Loughlin, P Casey, D Carroll; C Boylan, P O'Brien, D Fitzgerald. Subs: R Duff for Fitzgerald (38), J Delahunty for Fox (48), D Cunningham for Carroll (49), C Moriarty for Duff (55).
ST KIERAN'S: D Phelan; C Byrne, T Walsh, E Carroll; M Kenny, D Mullen, M Cody; M Keoghan, E Delaney; A Mullen, C Prendiville, J Connolly; S Carey, J Cuddihy, E Moylan. Subs: A Nolan for Kenny (40), G Brennan for Carey (59), N Delaney for Byrne (60+1).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).