On the 100th anniversary of the first ever Leinster Schools Senior Hurling Championship, there could scarcely be a more appropriate final pairing than the most famous nursery of the ancient game up against a combination side attempting to enter the Roll of Honour for the first time.
Castleknock College became the inaugural winners of the championship in 1918 and perhaps it’s a good omen for Dublin North that ten years ago the title also returned to the capital city.
Dublin Colleges’ triumph in 2008 was their second provincial success of the decade, having broken their duck in 2001. An All-Ireland was also secured in 2006, despite losing the provincial final that year, and this run of victories contributed to the county being split in two at this grade.
Results since then have been mixed, but four hard-earned wins in a row this season have secured a first ever final appearance for Dublin North.
St Kieran’s College may be perennial favourites for the Corn Ui Dhuill – and are now on the verge of a four-in-a-row in Leinster – but they were taken to extra-time in two of their three games this season and so the outcome of Thursday’s final is hardly a foregone conclusion.
Two Kilkenny derbies couldn’t be decided after 60 minutes, with St Kieran’s College first having to dig deep to defeat Castlecomer CS by 1-12 to 0-9 in Round 1, and also coming from behind in their next outing against CBS Kilkenny, before advancing by 0-16 to 0-12.
In the semi-final, Wexford side St. Peter’s also appeared to be mounting a real threat to St Kieran’s when on level terms at the break (1-6 apiece). However, star attacker Adrian Mullen scored their second goal early in the second half and they went on to win by 2-13 to 2-8.
Meanwhile, Dublin North started their campaign in the ‘group teams’ section with a 0-24 to 2-14 victory over Dublin South. Their fighting spirit first shone through against Good Counsel College, when they hit the last five points of the game – including an injury-time winner from Lee Gannon – to win by a point (1-12 to 2-8).
In Round 2, Dublin North defeated Borris VS by 1-13 to 0-12, with Micheal Murphy the star of the show with a haul of 1-8 and they deservedly defeated last year’s beaten finalists CBS Kilkenny in the semi-final on a scoreline of 3-12 to 0-18. Early goals were fired home by Conor Berigan and Cian Derwin and substitute Billy Ryan slotted home a third early in the second half.
The Dublin North forwards have shown a keen eye for goal and in Micheal Murphy they possess an excellent free-taker. Andrew Dunphy and Kevin Burke have been rock solid at the heart of their defence and with numerous clubs and schools represented on their starting 15, they have gelled well this season.
St Kieran’s College will look to leadership from the survivors from last year’s triumphant side, among them Adrian Mullen and captain Daithi Barron in attack, midfielder Eoin O’Shea, defenders Jesse Roberts, Killian Egan, Luke Murphy and Tommy Ronan, and net-minder Dean Mason.
Though these sides have not developed a rivalry at schools’ level, many of players involved lined out against each other in inter-county finals last year – Kilkenny beat Dublin in the Leinster MHC final, but the tables were turned in the ‘Special’ U-17 decider.
There are enough talented hurlers on each side to indicate that neither St Kieran’s nor Dublin North will run away with this game and no-one will expect a landslide result like the first ever final a century ago – when Castleknock College scored 5-1 and held their opponents O’Connell School scoreless.