St Kieran's College aiming for even more All-Ireland glory
By Damian Lawlor
Last Updated: 27/11/19 7:48pm
Leinster champions St Kieran's College had to dig deep to qualify for this weekend's Masita GAA Niall McInerney Cup final, but their pedigree gives them every chance of claiming further national honours against Presentation Athenry this Saturday.
Managed by Richie Ruth from Thurles Sarsfields, St Kieran's were tested hard by Wexford's Good Counsel when they met in the Leinster post primary schools junior A hurling final in Thomastown some weeks back.
An upset was in the air on that occasion as the New Ross side had beaten St Kieran's in the league a few weeks earlier and dominated the opening quarter.
The early stages of game turned out to be a shoot-out be between free takers, Harry Shine and John Redmond from Good Counsel with both players enjoying full success from the placed ball position.
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But Shine is a hugely talented player and has a sublime strike of the ball - he hit 0-12 in that game and will take close watching in this weekend's final.
"Harry is a great player, we have a couple of lads in underage Kilkenny squads, but our team is very unified," says manager Ruth.
"We have been training hard, the championships here locally have died down in the past few weeks and the lads have been able to give really good commitment to us.
"It's a way of life here as people will know - the hurleys are an extension of the arm for some fellas but I guess that's the case in a lot of schools too.
"Presentation Athenry will tell you it's the very same - the lads coming up the ranks are so serious about their hurling."
Aside from Shine, Nick Doheny and Killian Carey played pivotal roles for the Kilkenny men in the Leinster showpiece.
Padraig Naddy also had a big impact - he burst through in the provincial showpiece to fire home two goals.
"I think that game will stand to us," Ruth says.
"But we probably would have liked to have an All-Ireland semi-final to play to keep us ticking over too," he added.
"It's been four weeks and over since we played Good Counsel whereas the Athenry lads were out just two weeks ago so that's an advantage they will have.
"But that's just the way it is and you have to accept that too."
This is the last year that the under 16.5 campaign will have an All-Ireland series.
This is after recommendations from the GAA's Talent Academy & Player Development Review.
Ruth can see the reasoning behind that move but says he would be happy if the All-Ireland series is resurrected at some stage in the future.
"It's just a great competition," he says.
"Players get to see what the top teams from other counties and provinces are doing and I would hope that before long it will be restored at national level.
"It's a great step on the ladder for lads coming off development squads and out of academies and you get to see what is happening all over the country.
"I don't think the All-Ireland series would take too long to run off either.
"It means a lot to those who play in it.
"All week long in the school there has been lots of talk of the final and people are really looking forward to it."
Their opponents on Saturday feature two Galway minors, Liam Leen and Gavin Lee, but Ruth says the Galway side are well balanced overall.
"They are," he says, "and they've worked hard to get to this stage too.
"I think it will be a great game, there won't be much in it either way," he said.