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Dowling inspires Ardscoil victory

Winners for the first time last season, Limerick's Ardscoil Ris gave due notice of their intent to secure back-to-back titles with a superb performance in a titanic battle in Limerick yesterday.

It was a classic semi-final encounter watched by 6,000 spectators, who were enthralled by the high quality of play from both sides despite the heavy conditions underfoot.

The first half produced 23 points, with St Flannan's in front by 0-12 to 0-11 at the break.

The outstanding Tony Kelly had the Clare side in the lead inside 30 seconds.

However, by the seventh minute Ardscoil had picked off points by Shane Dowling (2), Brendan O'Connor, John Fitzgibbon -- a superb effort from the left-hand touchline -- and Mark Carmody. Three points by Kelly and another by Jarlath Colleran tied it up after 12 minutes.

They were level again after 20, 26 and 28 minutes before Conor O'Gorman's point had Flannan's in front at the break.

Five minutes into the second half they were level again but a goal by the outstanding Dowling from a 21-yard free sent Ardscoil Ris on their way and at the three-quarter stage the Limerick side led 2-17 to 0-15. Their second goal came after 15 minutes of the second half when Oisin Hickey hammered past Eoin Enright.

A purple patch by Shane O'Donnell, who scored three points in succession, and another two frees by Kelly left only two points between them.

St Flannan's should have gone in front but they missed an open goal and the Limerick side held on.

Dowling's accuracy from frees and play was crucial for the winners, while it was a heartbreak occasion for Flannan's Kelly, who finished with a haul of 14 points, three from play.

St Flannan's badly needed a goal at the middle stage of the second half but only once could they manage to breach the powerful Ardscoil defence and goalkeeper PJ Hall was alert to the danger, forcing the ball out for a '65.

Barry O'Connell and Declan Hannon in defence with Dowling and John Fitzgibbon in attack were the mainstays in a star cast for Ardscoil Ris.

Stephen O'Halloran in defence, midfielder Tony O'Connell and O'Donnell were all to the fore for the gallant losers.

Scorers -- Ardscoil Ris: S Dowling 1-10 (1-7f, 1 '65'), O Hickey 1-1, J Fitzgibbon 0-4, M Carmody 0-3, B O'Connor 0-1. St Flannan's: T Kelly 0-14 (9f, 1 '65'), S O'Donnell 0-4, C O'Gorman 0-3, J Colleran 0-1.

ArdScoil Ris -- PJ Hall; K Lynch, B O'Connell, D Moloney; A Dempsey, D Hannon, C Keogh; J Shanahan, B O'Connor; M Carmody, S Dowling, M Moroney; K O'Brien, J Fitzgibbon, O Hickey. Subs: K McNamara for Moroney (51), J Kelleher for Keogh (54).

St Flannan's -- E Enright; S Morey, P Duggan, C O'Loughlin; E Boyce, S O'Halloran, C Doohan; T Kelly, J Colleran; C Doohan, M O'Leary, C O'Gorman; S O'Donnell, A O'Neill, J Browne. Subs: R O'Loughlin for Boyce (56), D Barry for O'Neill (60), N Purcell for C O'loughlin (54).

Ref -- N Cosgrave (Tipperary).

Irish Independent