The home side who were forced to play almost the entire second half with 14 players after corner back Kevin Dilleen was red carded, had lost a five point lead, but looked good for the victory after Eoin McGrath gave them the lead with five minutes remaining.
The visitor’s numerical strength was crucial in that second half and O’Shaughnessy’s equalising point was no more than they deserved for the manner in which they battled back after half time.
Credit to Garda College. They displayed tremendous courage when reduced to 14 players, and never allowed their opponents to take the lead, but their lack of discipline cost them dearly as Andrew O’Shaughnessy hit seven points of his side’s tally from frees.
It was a typical Fitzgibbon Cup tie, teak tough played on a heavy pitch where the sliothar never ran resulting in a lot of very close play where no one was pulling back.
The home side had the advantage of the wind in the opening half. Mark Harrington gave them a grip on midfield and striking superbly, he hit four points which helped his side to an interval lead of 0-8 to 0-3.
With both defences on top, there was never a hint of a goal. Ger Flynn was rock solid in goal for Garda, ably assisted by Ciaran McGrath at corner back, Ger Hurley outside him and Tipp senior Conor O’Brien at centre back.
For GMIT, Galway senior Ger Mahon was excellent at full back while Paul Callinan and Kieran Flannery either side of him gave nothing away and it was all to play for as the westerners turned over with the elements to their backs.
The visitors couldn’t have asked for a better start when Garda lost a defender for a reckless pull on a GMIT attacker and with Andrew O’Shaughnessy unerring from frees, he pointed three on the trot to cut the deficit to two with just six minutes gone in the second half.
Significantly, all the GMIT scores up to then had come from frees by O’Shaughnessy. The pressure on the Garda defence was immense but they were coping well and the impressive Mark Harrington lifted the siege with a point to put three between the sides.
However GMIT used their extra man wisely placing him in behind their half back line which meant the home attack could make little headway. As the tension mounted so too did the keenness of the exchanges and in a welter of excitement, the visitors eventually drew level with points by Kenneth Burke in the 42nd minute (their first from play), O’Shaughnessy free and Neil Rodgers from play.
GMIT were in full flow now but Mark Harrington eased the pressure for the home side with his sixth point and only a brilliant save by the visitor’s netminder Eric Ward from substitute Mark Ryan denied Garda a certain goal as the clock ticked down.
Back came GMIT and it took an equally good save by Garda keeper Flynn to keep his goal intact, but from the resultant 65 Andrew O’Shaughnessy showed coolness personified to drill the equalising point straight between the posts.
What followed was comical as the teams played part of an extra-time period before the referee correctly drew a halt to proceedings after being informed of a rule change (see page 25).
Scorers – Garda: M. Harrington 0-6 (0-5 frees); B. Nugent 0-2; C. Moriarty, M. Fitzgerald, J. Gleeson 0-1 each.
GMIT: A. O’Shaughnessy 0-8 (0-7 frees, 0-1 65); K. Burke, N. Rodgers, M. Flaherty 0-1 each.
GARDA COLLEGE: G. Flynn; C. McGrath, B. McMahon, K. Dilleen; G. Hurley, C. O’Brien, B. McAvinne; J. Gleeson, M. Harrington; B. Nugent, C. Moriarty, E. McGrath; P. Walsh, P. Shanahan, M. Fitzgerald.
Sub: M. Ryan for Walsh.
GMIT: E. Ward; P. Callinan, G. Mahon, K. Flannery; C. Horan, B. Regan, D. Barry; N. Rodgers, D. Maher; C. Hynes, C. Egan, M. Flaherty; C. Kavanagh, K. Burke, A. O’Shaughnesy.
Sub: E. Feeney for Hynes.
Referee: A. Stapleton (Laois).