Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Niall McInerney Cup Junior A Hurling Semi Final – Midleton CBS 2-7 Presentation College Athenry 1-9

Midleton CBS defeated Presentation College Athenry by 2-7 to 1-9 in the Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Niall McInerney Cup Junior A Hurling Semi Final on Saturday March 8th at Claughan, Limerick.

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.

Fixture Details

Saturday 8th March 2014

Masita GAA All-Ireland Post Primary Schools Niall McInerney Cup Semi Final (Junior Hurling ‘A’)

Presentation College Athenry V Midleton CBS 2pm

Referee: John O’Brien (Tipperary)

Claughaun GAA Club, Limerick

Match Preview

On a hectic weekend for post-primary action, there are other mouth-watering games to take in. Saturday’s Masita Niall McInerney Cup (Junior hurling) semi-final between Presentation Athenry and Middleton CBS could well be the pick of the lot.

‘It should be a great game,’ admits Athenry joint-manager Colm Larkin who looks after the team with Ciaran O’Donovan, the former Galway minor and under-21 star.

‘It’s the first time we’ve been involved at All-Ireland stage at this level and that’s brilliant because essentially we are trying to develop young hurlers, give them back to their clubs at a developed stage and hopefully one or two will go on to play for their county team.’

Sean Loftus, Evan Niland and Andrew Greaney are key figures for this Galway team but the school’s hurling fraternity has seen a rise in fortunes in the past few years. School numbers have rose from 700 to near 1,000 and last weekend they beat St Brigid’s Loughrea in both the senior and junior Connacht Post Primary finals. Nine clubs are represented on the current team which is indicative of the work going on at local level.

‘The lads here put in a huge effort,’ Larkin says. ‘The bottom line is that we have to look after them too. Most of them have played under-14 or 16 for Galway and they could be currently playing with four or five different teams, including under-21 sides.

‘We are careful how we train them; sometimes we send them to tog in if we feel they are tired. We want to be fresh for Midleton; we know there’s a huge effort going on down there. We don’t know much about them but that’s the glory of a competition like this.’