Hurling & Camogie

St Killian's stand one step from All-Ireland schools' hurling glory

Antrim senior Joseph McLaughlin will hope to lead from the front against Waterford opposition

Joseph McLaughlin Cushendall's Joseph McLaughlin is the man that Blackwater CS will have to watch in their joust with St Killian's. Picture: John McIlwaine

Masita Paddy Buggy Cup final

Blackwater CS, Lismore (Waterford) v St Killian’s, Garron Tower (Antrim) (today, Abbotstown, 1.30pm)

IN the decade since the All-Ireland schools’ competitions were realigned, only Cross & Passion, Ballycastle have taken the Paddy Buggy Cup to Ulster.

That was in the 2014-15 season when Paddy Joe Graham led his troops to a 1-16 to 1-12 victory over Mountrath from Laois in Semple Stadium.

Today, St Killian’s will aim to emulate that achievement in the more mundane setting of Abbottstown with a Waterford school in opposition.

They should have a huge support behind them despite the counter attraction of Tipperary’s visit to Corrigan Park later in the afternoon.

The school game means that Darren Gleeson will have to plan without Joseph McLaughlin, who made his senior debut against Offaly last month and fired home their only goal against Galway three weeks ago.

McLaughlin is hot property at the moment and he followed that Galway performance by hitting 3-10 for St Killian’s six days later in their All-Ireland semi-final win over Galway’s Portumna Community School.

His first two goals were predatory after others had done the hard work, his third was a solo effort.

He captains his school team to their first All-Ireland final. It is a strong side that looked nervous in the Danske Bank Mageean Cup final at the Dub, but still got over the line by 0-17 to 0-13 to bridge a 60-year gap to the last Mageean success.

On the more open spaces at Darver’s Centre of Excellence they were able to open up the game on the bigger and faster 4G surface – but had to recover from a nervous start when they conceded a goal inside 60 seconds.

However, the Mageean Cup champions have a strong defence with Colla Ward, Niall Magee and Charlie McAuley standing out in each of their matches.

McLaughlin had, by his standards, a quiet Mageean final, but the likes of Cormac McKeown and Orrin O’Connor stepped up to the plate, while McLaughlin still managed to hit scores when they were really needed.

By contrast to that high scoring game in Darver, Blackwater CS led their semi-final, 0-7 to 1-3 after 56 minutes, but added four more points from Ben Cummins in the time remaining.

That match was played in Johnstown on a heavier surface and you would expect them to pick up pace and accuracy on a fast surface like Abbottstown.

Cummins leads their attack but you would expect good support from his Lismore club-mates, Charlie Lineen, Adam Cummins and Ben O’Sullivan in attack, while Joseph O’Keefe is a towering presence in midfield.

Defensively you have to note that they kept Banagher to 1-5 a fortnight ago. But then again they conceded 1-18 against Scariff in the Munster decider.

There have been two previous meetings between the schools at All-Ireland level – both in camogie around a decade and a half ago and both won by the Waterford side. Let’s hope it is third time lucky for the Tower.