Ardscoil Rís, Limerick 1-17 St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny 0-15
At the fourth time of asking, Niall Moran and Ardscoil Rís finally came good in a Croke Cup final against St Kieran's College.
David Kennedy was the game-breaker at Croke Park on this occasion with 1-3 and the crucial 56th-minute goal that ultimately separated two old foes.
Ardscoil Rís, from Limerick City, contested three previous All-Ireland senior college finals in 2010, 2011 and 2016 and lost narrowly to Kilkenny’s St Kieran’s on each occasion.
Former Limerick star Moran was part of the school’s management team for all four finals so came to this one loaded with baggage and heartache and admitted he was hugely emotional at the final whistle.
It wasn't a classic encounter with Ardscoil Rís playing a seventh defender – the highly effective Cian Scully – but it hardly mattered with victory all that counted after all those previous final failures.
“We’d lost the few All-Irelands and you could argue that we probably didn’t show up in maybe one of them,” said Moran.
“It could have been thrown at us that you’re just not able to get over Kieran’s, that you’re soft and you’re weak.
“In the lead-up to this, we removed that we were playing Kieran’s, it was just that we were playing an opposition. It kind of stood to us.”
Nerves were still on show from both teams initially and it wasn’t until Ardscoil Rís cut loose with seven points in a row in the lead up to half-time that either side hit a patch of form.
Niall O’Farrell, who overcame an AC joint problem to start, scored five of those points, and 0-8 in total, helping the beaten Harty Cup finalists to lead 0-11 to 0-6 at half-time.
Evan O'Leary was terrific in defence for Ardscoil Rís too, while joint captain Shane O'Brien and Kennedy, who hit 1-3 overall, gave commanding displays.
Kieran’s, 23 times champions and back-to-back winners in 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic break, came slowly but surely back into the contest.
Joe Fitzpatrick was a powerful figure at centre back and scored four points in all, while three Ben Whitty scores helped reduce the deficit to just two points with four minutes remaining.
Ardscoil Rís responded impressively, firstly with the Kennedy goal which was set up by sub Dylan Lynch and then with a point from Lynch himself to put clear daylight between the sides.
ARDSCOIL RÍS: S Gully; E O'Leary, J Fitzgerald, C Flynn; C Scully, M Gavin, B O'Keeffe; V Harrington, JJ Carey; R O'Byrne (0-1), O O'Farrell, S O'Brien (0-3); J Golden (0-1), N O'Farrell (0-8, four frees, one 65), D Kennedy (1-3).
Subs: R McNamara for Fitzgerald (38 mins-f/t, blood), D Lynch (0-1) for Flynn (49), D Stritch for O'Byrne (59,) S McMahon for O'Keffee (60).
ST KIERAN'S COLLEGE: A Dunphy; J Butler, A O'Connor, P Lennon; P Langton (0-1), J Fitzpatrick (0-4, one free), C Cody; J Carroll (0-1), K Doyle; L Connellan, T Dunne, B Whitty (0-4, one free, one 65); P Naddy (0-1), H Shine (0-3, one free), D Murphy (0-1).
Subs: A Ireland Wall for Naddy (42 mins), A Sheridan for Murphy (52), N Doheny for Dunne (56).
Referee: L Gordon (Galway).