At Feenagh yesterday, they were within seconds of achieving their dream, but St Flannan’s full-forward Bernard Gaffney spoiled the party with a dramatic equalising goal to earn his side a second bite of the cherry.
And it was no more than the Ennis college deserved.
Written off in most quarters, including their own, Flannan’s put in a tremendous display of gutsy hurling that on another day might well have won them the honours.
Apart from the players, the St Flannan’s mentors can also take a fair deal of the credit for ensuring their side are still in the title race.
They entrusted the task of keeping Andrew O’Shaughnessy in check to 15-year-old James McInerney and the fact that the St Colman’s man failed to register a score is testament to the magnificent marking job the Newmarket youngster did on the Fermoy captain.
Patrick Kirby, who, along with O’Shaughnessy, are members of the Limerick senior team, was another player Colman’s were expecting big things from.
But, apart from scoring four points, three of them from frees, he could never stamp his authority on the game and that too was a credit to the excellence of the Flannan’s defence.
Indeed both defences were outstanding, which meant scores were very difficult to come by, Colman’s half backline of Kevin O’Mahony, Aidan Kearney and John O’Donnell being particularly outstanding.
Midfielder Seamus Stack cleared a world of ball when he dropped back to help out his defence.
The cross-field wind made it difficult for both sets of players, but Colman’s couldn’t have asked for a better start when Kirby set up Fergus Browne for a goal after a minute.
A Paul Kearney point quickly followed and with the Flannan’s forwards unable to make any impression, the champions forged 1-3 to 0-0 in front after 20 minutes and the signs looked ominous for Flannan’s.
It took the Ennis college until the 22nd minute to open their account when Eoin Shinnors pointed a close-in free.
It sparked off a period of dominance by Flannan’s and when Danny O’Halloran pointed in the 29th minute Colman’s’ half-time lead of 1-3 to 0-2 didn’t look insurmountable.
Flannan’s continued to chase and harrass Colman’s at every opportunity on the change over and the excellent free-taking of Eoin Shinnors had the deficit down to the minimum six minutes into the second-half, as the champions began to struggle in most areas.
With O’Shaughnesy unable to make any worthwhile contribution, it was left to Patrick Kirby and Paul Kearney to keep Colman’s afloat.
Both added a point each, which left their side 1-6 to 0-6 in front with 10 minutes to go, and their defence was coping so well with the ever-increasing Flannan’s pressure that the title looked destined for the Fermoy college for an unprecedented third year in a row.
However, credit to Flannan’s for refusing to give up the chase and when Mark Moloney launched a high ball deep into the Colman’s defence, for once they failed to clear, and Bernard Gaffney became the hero for Flannan’s with the equaliser.
Scorers: St. Colman’s: P. Kirby 0-3; F. Browne 1-0; P. Kearney 0-2; E. Condon 0-1.
St. Flannan’s: E. Shinnors 0-4; B. Gaffney 1-0; D. O’Halloran 0-2.
ST. COLMAN’S: D. Fitzgerald; C. Griffin, B. Lane, J. Dorgan; K. O’Mahony, A. Kearney, J. O’Donnell; S. Stack, E. Condon; M. Cleary, P. Kearney, P. Kirby; A. O’Shaughnessy, M. Allen, F. Browne. Sub. C . O’Connell for Cleary.
ST. FLANNAN’S: A. Ryan; A. Byrne, D. O’Doherty, J. McInerney; S. O’Brien, M. Moloney, M. Og Murphy; B. Guinnane, R. Keane; A. Griffey, J. Clancy, D. O’Halloran; E. Shinnors, B. Gaffney, N. Dunne. Subs. K. Forde for Guinnane; D. Kelleher for Griffey.
Referee: J. McDonnell (Tipperary).