IT’S not as if Ardscoil Ris needed a lesson in how cruel sport can be, but none the less , they once again suffered All-Ireland final heartbreak on Saturday in Semple Stadium.
Twelve months ago in the All-Ireland senior A colleges hurling championship final in Thurles the North Circular Road secondary school led 2-8 to 1-6 with just about 10 minutes remaining against St Kierans College. But the Limerick teenagers failed to score for the remainder of the game as the Kilkenny side scored 1-5 without replay to dash the Ardscoil dreams.
Driven by the pain of that loss, Ardscoil Ris regrouped and won their way back to the All-Ireland last last Saturday. Semple Stadium was again the venue and St Kierans, again the opponents.
This time, Ardscoil led 1-11 to 1-9 with one minute of the three alloted minutes of injury time played.
One of the oldest clinches surround hurling is ‘two points is a dangerous lead’ and so it proved as ‘Kierans’ struck for goal with less than 90 seconds remaining to break Ardscoil hearts once more.
All involved with Ardscoil will be the first to admit that they didn’t play to their brilliant best but they showed huge battling qualitied to battle back from the half time deficit of 1-4 to 0-4.
Ardscoil did lead, 0-3 to 0-2, after the opening quarter with John Fitzgibbon and Mark Carmody finishing good moves after a Declan Hannon long range free had opened the scoring.
A 13th minute save by PJ Hall from Thomas O’Hanrahan was a warning of what was to come and in the 26th minute O’Hanrahan goaled. But surely corner back Damien Moloney was fouled in the lead-up to the crucial score.
That score had the reigning champions 1-4 to 0-3 ahead. Finally 16 minutes without an Ardscoil score was stopped when Shane Dowling pointed a free.
In the opening half, Ardscoil hit seven wides and that was to rise to 11 by the final whistle.
One of those came on the stroke of half time when John Fitzgibbon sent a close range free wide. Usual free-taker Shane Dowling was just after being swicthed to centre back.
He also played the entire second half at No6 with Declan Hannon at centre forward.
Within 11 seconds of the restart, Ardscoil had goaled – Hannon delivered a great low ball to Kevin O’Brien and he made the incision before laying off to Oisin Hickey who finished from close range.
Just a point between them now, but John Power (brother of Kilkenny All-Star Richie) came to life and hit three points to open a 1-8 to 1-4 lead with 22 minutes to play.
With 13 minutes to go they sides were level with Dowling frees and points from Alan Dempsey and Hickey dragging Ardscoil back into contention.
Outstanding full back William Phelan restored the Kilkenny lead but again a Dowling free restored parity.
When Dowling pointed a ‘65, it appeared this could be Ardscoil’s day after all.
Power was wide with a hurried shot at the other end and then as the stopwatch moved into injury-time Dowling punched the air after his free left two between the sides.
But Conor O’Shea soloed up the right and when he delivered low across the goal, unmarked O’Hanrahan finished to the net.
The puckout was hurried and sub Richie Reid intercepted and pointed for a two point lead.
There was one last chance and when Carmody was upended, Dowling made his way forward for the 21metre free.
But he failed to rise the sliothar smoothly and never tested the nine on the goal, his pull on the ground did goal goalwards, but it flew past Jamie Shanahan before he could avert it goalwards.