Hurling schools of success

In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely says the success of the hurling schools in the city should be replicated in the county

In his weekly Limerick Leader column, Martin Kiely says the success of the hurling schools in the city should be replicated in the county

The two elderly gentlemen were in full flow outside Jimmy Nagle’s shop on Main Street in Bruff last week. Their voices were somewhat raised and their hand gestures added to the passion of their conversation.

The town was busy but the main topic for these men was not the high price of cattle or the recent letter they received from revenue – instead, on closer inspection, it was clear the agenda was hurling and what a special day it was to see two Limerick colleges meeting in the quarter final of the Harty Cup. These men were not local and had made the journey and as they ate their ice cream in the winter sunshine they discussed the chances of a Castletroy victory. Ard Scoil Ris have, for a few years now, carved a new road for colleges’ hurling in Limerick and in doing so they have played a major part in further developing the quality of young hurlers going to that school. Castletroy are only about two years into the same journey but on the evidence of what I saw last week they are well underway to building a tradition all of their own.

Bruff, as always, was in splendid condition for hurling and the very large crowd had not only come for the game but also to witness this special day. It has taken some vision from a lot of people to bring such a day about and the hard work of so many was rewarded as a result of this game.

What we saw in this game was many of the young players who will not only play with Limerick at minor level this year but will also serve the county for many years to come. Hurling at this level is at its most pure and the skill level of both teams was very high and that is a tribute to the people who have worked with them at club and colleges’ level.

The real heroes of the GAA are those who work so hard at club level to bring young talent through from underage. These people work quietly in the privacy of their own clubs and the goal is to bring enjoyment coupled with the very many skills of the game.

In another era it was Limerick CBS that led the way for Limerick hurling, that period also saw the county teams do well and it is the hope that the recent and current progress will coincide with major success in the near future for Limerick. I have followed the progress of many of these players and have a fair idea of what is coming through over the next few years and with such quality success can be achieved if the model is continued and bettered in the years ahead.

Having schools now on both sides of the city covers many clubs close to the city but the challenge now must be to make sure such a nursery is put in place in the west and south of the county. This will present challenges and the model may not produce the same results but it would provide a vital home for many quality players in these areas. Colaiste Na Trocaire in Rathkeale has so much going for it and is well placed to benefit from such a move.

It may require schools in Dromcollogher and Newcastle West providing some players but if the will is there then success can be achieved. For so long South Limerick has produced so many fine players and is it not possible to develop a team from schools in Hospital and Kilmallock? The answer is yes but it needs someone to take the lead and then many will follow.

Looking out on the lush grass in Bruff and watching two fine teams contesting for a place in the last four of the Harty Cup one had to be so impressed by the efforts of so many. For the people who first started them in the club and those who put many of them through their hands at Limerick underage level and now at colleges this was a very proud day. These young players and many more around the county are working very hard and the dedication of their parents also plays a huge part in the development of these players.

The model we now have in Limerick can serve us very well in the long term and it deserves to be supported by all parts of the GAA in Limerick. Having players who go through such a development at colleges’ level means that they are very well tuned in when they move onto inter-county level.

Of the Ard Scoil Ris team this year 11 of them are currently involved with the minor hurling panel while Castletroy have a few players involved also.

Long before a ball was struck in this game most people were of the view that Ard Scoil Ris were the more experienced team but to the credit of Castletroy they set about taking the game to the Ennis Road boys from the very start. From a skill point of view little enough separated the sides and in the opening exchanges Castletroy did not look out of place. Ard Scoil were sluggish in the opening half and were lucky to enjoy a two point lead at the break. Scores were hard to come by but I would have to say I enjoyed the quality of stick work from both teams.

Castletroy were very tigerish in their approach and they showed great hunger for the ball and players like Jeffery Enright, Stephen Power and Paddy Morrissey worked very hard and showed well for the ball. For Ard Scoil one man was leading the way, Jamie Shanahan was in total control around the middle and his dominance was to prove vital to the outcome of this game.

As a game it was not free flowing and we had a few too many frees given when it might have been easier to allow the play to develop. Killian Enright had some fine scores from play and placed balls for Castletroy while Gearoid Hegarty worked hard at centre forward. Hegarty is the son of Ger who served Limerick well for a very long time and given the right ball his son knows where the goals are. Physically Ard Scoil had the advantage and that was a telling factor in the end but with most of their players underage again next year you can be sure this team will only get better.

I think Ard Scoil Ris have a nice balance in their team and it will be interesting to see how the remaining games go for them. They are strong in the vital places, PJ Hall who has won titles in goal is now the full back and not only does he have the hands, he has the frame to mind the square.

Barry O Connell is at centre back and is very solid while in attack young Ronan Lynch at centre forward and Kevin O’Brien at full forward have the ability to do real damage but they might want to take the first option and not always take the ball in to trouble. O’Brien scored the goal that ended this game as a contest and with his class I feel this man will have a major part to play for the Limerick minor team in 2012.

Both of the schools on view last week are now setting a new foundation for Limerick hurling going forward and over time the influence of these schools on Limerick hurling has and will continue to be quite significant in the years ahead. It’s not all one way traffic because it is also good for the school to be doing well and to be seen as leader when it comes to sports.

Castletroy have a new principal and this man comes from a strong GAA background and this can only be of help in the promoting of gaelic games at such a vast school. Well organised schools have the ability to play a major part in the career of a young hurler and in this regard Limerick is blessed to have such schools.