Masita All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Update

THRILLS AND SPILLS APLENTY AS FINAL PLACES ARE GRABBED IN MASITA ALL-IRELAND POST-PRIMARY SCHOOLS CHAMPIONSHIPS

2014 is a historic year for the GAA in the second-level sector with all competitions now integrated as Post Primary Schools Competitions. Over the next six weeks Comhairle Iarbhunscoileanna will provide previews (every Thursday) and reviews (every Monday) of the weekend’s action

JUST two weeks ago, Presentation College, Athenry were on a serious roll. They were crowned NUI Galway sponsored Connacht Post Primary A hurling champions for the first time in three years after beating St Brigid’s Loughrea – and also nabbed the Connacht Junior Championship a few days later. That win duly set them up for last weekend’s mouth-watering tussle with Midleton CBS in the Niall McInerney Cup semi-final.

We predicted this clash could well be the pick of the lot and were proved correct. The Cork side, coached by former Rebel senior hurler Ronan Dwane and Sean Hurley, hung on by the narrowest of margins to seal a final place on a 2-7 – 1-9 scoreline.

Much work has gone into the Cork underage set-up in the past two years and their Rebel Og and schools development programme is clearly starting to pay dividends.

Beating Athenry was a massive achievement. It was the first time that this competition had gone beyond provincial championship stage and Athenry had a heap of Galway underage hurlers at their disposal, keen to win a national title. Numbers in the western school had grown too, from 700 to 1000 students in the very recent past. They had nine local clubs feeding them and with the momentum from their senior team they were expected to come through – albeit after a thunderous battle.

Star players Sean Loftus, Evan Niland and Andrew Greaney didn’t leave them down in a dry, but windswept Claughan. But the Cork men, down five points at the break, came back to avail of the breeze and reach the Masita Niall McInerney Cup final by just a point.

What an exhibition of hurling was served up. Barely able to progress beyond the halfway line against a driving wind in the first half, Midleton struggled to cope with the talented Greaney and Cian Salmon. The Galway side should have been further ahead at the break but players like emerging Cork star Seadna Smith played a pivotal role in keeping his side in the game.

Another Cork underage talent. John Looney, scored a hugely important goal which eased his team into a more stable tempo.

And in the second half Midleton went up another gear. In the air Smith seemed unbeatable and put in a man-of-the-match display covering his defence and keeping Athenry at bay. The westerners packed their defence but to no avail – they were left to endure a heartbreaking defeat after an hour of committed hurling in desperate conditions.

It will take a huge effort from Kilkenny CBS to stop the defiant Cork team in the final at the end of this month.

 

It’s also been a very busy period for St Joseph’s, Crossmaglen, who won their first colleges’ senior football title last month. Almost half of their side won Herald Cup (U16) medals earlier in the year and while these younger players may not be as physically strong as opponents they have shown they have serious heart for battle with recent wins over MRC Magherafelt and last weekend 2-11 – 2-6 win over Franciscan Gromanstown.

That win now leaves them in the Masita Br.Edmund Ignatius Rice Cup {SF ‘D’} final against Our Lady’s Belmullet. There had been question marks over the fitness of two of Crossmaglen’s more senior players in recent weeks – Conor Traynor and captain Arnas Dzinkevicius. Both had limped off in the Nolan Cup final but the squad has shown just how strong it is with these back to back wins. Their team is younger than most of their opponents, but they have only lost once all year and have been playing at a very high standard in under16 competition.

Wexford CBS have also been fielding a callow side as their hurling rejuvenation continues apace.

They are now just one step away from a trophy after beating St Patrick’s Downpatrick last Saturday in the Masita Michael Cusack Cup {SH ‘C’} semi-final. They were hot favourites to win, but mentor Donal Howlin warned last week that he was very wary of Downpatrick’s threat and though they won 2-14 – 1-8 Howlin says it was no easy contest.

“We were down 1-1 to 1-4 at half time and St Patrick’s had gale in first half,” he said. “Oisin McManus scored a great goal for them early on and he was a serious threat for most of the match as he got most of their points from frees too. But we responded with a goal from Stephen Kearney and in the second half we eventually wore them down. Sean Stafford hit four frees which helped but we were not in front until the 45th minute. We got a late goal from Ian Moran in the 47th minute which made it 2-8 to 1-6 and then had a flurry of late points. But that made it look more comfortable than it was. They were a serious test.”

And so, like Midleton CBS, Our Lady’s Belmullet and Crossmaglen St Joseph’s, Wexford CBS now have an All-Ireland final to look forward to. Another series of teams line up this weekend hoping for similar fates.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

COLÁISTE EOIN landed the senior Leinster colleges ‘A’ by beating Marist College at Croke Park last Saturday night. The Dublin school recovered from a three-point half-time deficit to win with Conn Ó Ceallacháin hitting a whopping 0-9 overall, including five frees. His performance, under such pressure, was the standout display of the week.

NUMBER OF THE WEEK – 16

COLÁISTE EOIN also get this honour – their win last Saturday night put to bed a 16-year famine for a second senior schools crown after they had lost in the in 2010 and 2012 finals.

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