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St Kieran's turn tables




THE heartbreak of last year's All-Ireland Colleges SHC A Final defeat was most emphatically exorcised by St Kieran's of Kilkenny yesterday as they took revenge on St Flannan's in this year's final.

Twelve months ago at Croke Park, St Kieran's snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when they squandered a five-point advantage in the closing stages to allow the Clare side snatch victory by a similar margin.

Curiously, a repeat scenario was always a possibility in this highly combative contest, played before 2,000 fans at a rain-swept McDonagh Park in Nenagh, as the outcome was balanced on a knife-edge entering the finishing straight.

Indeed, the Kilkenny college couldn't afford to think in terms of revenge and a record 14th title until referee Johnny McDonnell blew the final whistle.

With nine minutes left, a pointed free from unerring marksman Andrew Quinn left St Flannan's just a point adrift at 1-7 to 0-9. But this time there was to be no repeat fairytale ending for the Ennis side. Indeed, Quinn's fifth and last point all from placed balls represented Flannan's final impact on the scoreboard.

Following Quinn's effort we had three minutes of scoring stalemate before Kieran's forged a point ahead and then added two more similar scores before the final whistle.

The first of the three closing scores reflected favourably on the decision to introduce sub Ned Sweeney just three minutes earlier. Sweeney was fouled after a pacey run and last year's Tipperary minor star Eoin Kelly pointed from the placed ball.

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Kelly, scorer of seven points in all, quickly set up Liam Heffernan for another point and then captain and midfielder Tim Murphy closed the scoring with a massive pointed free from all of 80 metres.

As well as exacting revenge for last year's defeat, St Kieran's victory was additionally sweet on two counts it edged the Kilkenny outfit ahead of St Flannan's in the All-Ireland Colleges roll of honour by 14 titles to 13 and also prevented the Ennis college from chalking up a hat-trick of All-Ireland wins.

St Kieran's joint manager Adrian Finan summed up the unbridled jubilation in the winners' camp when he said: ``Fourteen of these lads were involved in last year's final (left corner-back Tommy Walsh was the exception), so that makes this win all the more welcome. The commitment of the lads today was absolutely fantastic they were tripping over one another trying to put pressure on the St Flannan's players.''

And scorer-in-chief Kelly added: ``We were all absolutely gutted after last year's final, and I also had the additional personal disappointment when Tipperary lost to Galway in last year's All-Ireland Minor Final. I was disappointed with a few wides that I hit from frees against the wind in the second half today, but thankfully unlike last year we finished the match strongly.''

St Flannan's joint manager Michael McInerney said: ``We needed to get level in the second half to give ourselves a chance but unfortunately we never got closer than one point. However, on the day St Kieran's had an edge on us.''

Heffernan grabbed the crucial goal after 28 minutes and it helped the Kilkenny side to a 1-4 to 0-4 half-time lead.

Most observers thought Heffernan was trying for a point when his delivery ended at the top corner of the net, but he said afterwards: ``I saw the goalkeeper run off his line and so I decided to try and lob him.''

As well as scoring heroes, Kelly and Heffernan, St Kieran's also had hugely influential performers in James Moran, Ken Coogan and Jackie Tyrell in defence and Tim Murphy at midfield.

The St Flannan's defence performed adequately but the holders largely played second fiddle at midfield and they relied too much on Damien Kennedy up front.

SCORERS St Kieran's: E Kelly 0-7 (4f), L Heffernan 1-1, S O Neill 0-1, T Murphy 0-1f. St Flannan's: A Quinn 0-5f, D Kennedy 0-2, B Gantley 0-1, J Culkin 0-1 (65).

ST KIERAN'S D Brennan; D Connery, J Moran, T Walsh; B Hogan, K Coogan, J Tyrell; T Murphy, S Hennessy; S O'Neill, E Kelly, M Walsh; B Carroll, P O'Neill, L Heffernan. Sub: N Sweeney for M Walsh (50).

ST FLANNAN'S D Quinn; K McNamara, R O'Looney, A O'Loughlin; R Conlon, J Culkin, A Fleming; F Lynch, J McMahon; D Kennedy, J Clohessy, G O'Grady; B Gantley, B Colbert, A Quinn. Sub: N Moran for Clohessy (55).

REF J McDonnell (Tipperary)

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