Awesome Ardscoil storm to Harty title
Ardscoil Ris 3-19
Dr Harty Cup Final
Going into this game, Ardscoil Rís were 1/4 with the bookies, the odds largely framed on their semi-final performance against St Flannan's College in one of the best colleges games of the last 10 years.
Apart from the insidious threat of complacency, it was pretty clear that if Ardscoil Rís hit a similar standard again, Charleville wouldn't be able to live with them. If anything, the bookies had been generous, because Ardscoil were in a different stratosphere.
Ten of their starting team were part of the side which agonisingly lost to St Kieran's in last year's All-Ireland final and this is a really serious outfit now.
Superbly coached, well drilled, loaded with pace and class, they also have a worldliness about them which reflects their experience. Six of the side were Limerick minors last year, two of whom -- Declan Hannon and Shane Dowling -- were Limerick U-21s. Jamie Shanahan, one of the best young prospects in Clare, also played in last year's All-Ireland minor final.
This group of players has effectively been on a crusade over the last two years. They won their first Harty Cup title last season and this campaign appears to be about more than just atonement for last year's All-Ireland final disappointment; they are consistently seeking to hit a new standard in an attempt to finally grasp what they feel is their destiny -- an All-Ireland title.
A significant number of new schools are now competing in the Dr Harty Cup, but what Ardscoil have achieved in recent years is phenomenal.
Historically, the school was always a rugby stronghold, but hurling has gained real momentum in the last five years. They are still the only Limerick school competing at top-level hurling and rugby, but hurling is now a huge part of the school's culture. They have a hurling module for transition year students, and they stage a sixth-class blitz for incoming first years. It's no surprise that they also won last year's Rice Cup U-14 competition.
The hurling teams share their only pitch with the rugby sides, but this team has become such a positive emblem for Limerick hurling that many of the city clubs, and Limerick IT, consistently make their facilities available.
The squad has been in training since last August and their schedule often includes early morning sessions and weekend training camps. In terms of mentality and outlook, this group think and act like elite athletes.
Having watched De La Salle win a Harty title for the first time in 2007, and then go on to win successive All-Irelands, Ardscoil closely studied the professional template they had set down. De La Salle had raised the bar and Ardscoil knew they would have to raise it again if they were going to be as competitive. Given the standard of the St Flannan's team they beat in the semi-final, Ardscoil have certainly hit that level.
In terms of physicality and athleticism, there was no comparison between the sides, but Charleville were a hugely inexperienced side who were competing in their first Harty final in 73 years.
Working off numbers of just 260 students, their last real dalliance with success at this level came in 1994 when they lost a Harty quarter-final to a North Monastery side that went on to win the All-Ireland.
They had defied all the odds to reach this stage, but they never laid a glove on Ardscoil and the game was over as a contest after the first quarter.
Ardscoil have made a name for themselves as a scoring machine and they added to that reputation in front of 3,120 supporters. They'd been averaging 2-19 in their four matches, against big-name sides -- St Flannan's, Thurles CBS, St Colman's, Waterford Colleges -- and their tally of 3-19 could have been greater if they hadn't taken their foot off the gas. In all, 10 of their players scored from play.
In the early stages, Charleville did everything possible to try and discomfit the centre of Ardscoil's defence with off-the-ball movement, but Ardscoil just alternated Declan Hannon and Barry O'Connell as their extra man and once they settled down, their diamond touch, fluent style, sharper mindset and precision striking just carved Charleville apart. They were ahead by 1-4 to 0-1 after the first quarter and they'd extended that lead to 2-11 to 0-2 at the break.
In his victory speech, joint-captain Dowling alluded to the fact that, in the last three years, Ardscoil have now won their first Dean Ryan title (Munster U-16 and a half), their first Harty title and now their first Harty two-in-a-row.
In their minds, there is still only one outstanding first to be completed.
Scorers -- Ardscoil Rís: S Dowling 0-5 (4f, 1 '65'), J Fitzgibbon 1-2, O Hickey 1-1, K O'Brien 1-0, J Shanahan 0-3 (2f), A Dempsey, J Kelleher 0-2 each, M Carmody, B O'Connor, D Hannon, M Ryan 0-1 each. Charleville CBS: P O'Callaghan 0-3 (2f).
ArdScoil Rís -- PJ Hall; K Lynch, B O'Connell, D Maloney; A Dempsey, D Hannon, M Moroney; M Ryan, J Shanahan; M Carmody, S Dowling, B O'Connor; K O'Brien, O Hickey, J Fitzgibbon. Subs: C Keogh for Dowling (37), J Kelleher for Fitzgibbon (41), C Lynch for Carmody (50), F Carey for O'Connor (55).
Charleville CBS -- TJ Garvey; S Butler, J Madigan, J Walsh; C Twomey, D Reidy, A Dennehy; D Sheehy, M O'Loughlin; T Rae, M Kavanagh, J Morrissey; D Copps, J O'Brien, P O'Callaghan. Subs: G Kelleher for Butler (h-t), J McCarthy for Morrissey (h-t).
Ref -- F Horgan (Tipperary).