Kilcormac Killoughey led 1-4 to 0-6 at half time but they appeared to be staring down the barrel of a gun as they trailed by 1-6 to 0-13 after 45 minutes. However, Danny Owens’ resilient men dug deep and secured a merited victory as they outscored their Laois opponents 1-6 to 0-1 during the closing quarter.
Twins Ger and Peter Healion were defiant in defence while the tigerish Alan McConville conceded nothing as Kilcormac Killoughey booked their maiden provincial final appearance.
Damien Kilmartin, who was later joined by Ciaran Slevin, ruled midfield, while Peter Geraghty and Dan Currams executed their goals with aplomb.
Kilcormac Killoughey’s captain Slevin picked up a second-minute yellow card — the first of six brandished by James Owens — and two minutes later Rathdowney Errill corner-back Alan Delaney suffered a similar fate as he hauled down Tomas Geraghty at the expense of a penalty.
Rathdowney Errill keeper Noel Brennan brilliantly diverted Slevin’s stinging strike away for a ’65, which the Kilcormac Killoughey captain converted.
Jason Phelan equalised for the Laois champions in the seventh minute, the first of six occasions the sides were deadlocked.
Ross King edged Rathdowney Errill ahead, 0-4 to 0-3, on the quarter hour mark before a penetrating Conor Mahon run allowed Dan Currams to flick the sliotar to the twine.
Eleven scoreless minutes followed, however, Kilcormac Killoughey were cursing their luck in the 25th minute as Trevor Fletcher blazed a glorious goal scoring opportunity inches wide. Liam Tynan and Mahon traded points and the last action of the half saw Ross King convert a free to leave Rathdowney Errill a point adrift at the break, 0-6 to 1-4.
Within seconds of the resumption King tied matters. Slevin then edged Kilcormac Killoughey ahead by the minimum, 1-5 to 0-7, before Frankie McGrath’s charges hit back with five unanswered points courtesy of King (three) and John Purcell (two).
With Brian Campion and Joe Fitzpatrick performing with composure at the back, the Rathdowney Errill attack operated off a bountiful supply.
Slevin pulled a point back for Kilcormac Killoughey, who then heaved a huge sigh of relieve when a King shot was saved and from the rebound Liam Tynan’s shot was deflected and flew over the bar, 0-13 to 1-6.
Owens rejigged his hand at this stage, switching Killian Leonard to corner back, shifting Slevin to midfield, Currams to centre-forward and Mahon to full-forward, and they powerfully hurled themselves back into contention.
They registered 1-6 without reply in a devastating 13-minute spell, equalling what they had tallied over the previous 47 minutes. The inspirational Slevin landed three successful frees, sub James Gorman arrowed over a sublime point and the decisive moment arrived in the 57th minute.
Rathdowney Errill keeper Brennan reacted well to stop a Peter Geraghty shot with his foot but Geraghty tucked away the rebound, 2-10 to 0-13. Currams and Geraghty added further points sparking joyous scenes for Kilcormac Killoughey in the rain.
Scorers for Kilcormac Killoughey: C Slevin 0-7 (5f, 1 65), D Currams, P Geraghty 1-1 each, K Leonard, C Mahon, J Gorman 0-1 each.
Scorers for Rathdowney Errill: R King 0-8 (4f), J Purcell, L Tynan 0-2 each, J Phelan, D King 0-1 each.
KILCORMAC KILLOUGHEY: C Slevin; J Grogan, G Healion, A McConville; K Grogan, P Healion, B Leonard; K Leonard, D Kilmartin; C Slevin, C Mahon, P Geraghty; T Geraghty, D Currams, T Fletcher.
Subs: J Gorman for Fletcher (ht), K Coyne for J Grogan (43), M Leonard for T Geraghty (62).
RATHDOWNEY ERRILL: N Brennan; A Delaney, B Campion, L Mahon; J Corrigan, J Fitzpatrick, P Mahon; S Dollard, P Purcell; J Purcell, D King, E Meagher; J Phelan, R King, L Tynan.
Subs: J Ryan for King (22), O Houlihan for Meagher (58).
Referee: James Owens, (Wexford).