Murray was left out of the starting line-up because of a knee injury, but, after being introduced 13 minutes from time, he kicked the ball to the net in the 59th minute. Cooney followed up with a free to tie their Galway SHC semi-final in front of a huge attendance at Kenny Park in Athenry.
Joe Canning played the entire match at midfield for Portumna and looked to have wrapped up their spot in the final against Loughrea when he hit his 13th point three minutes from time. However, the champions’ late comeback foiled his efforts.
Portumna dominated the clash for long periods, hitting some magnificent points along the way.
In the first-half Damien Hayes played the hurling of his life and hit four points from play as St Thomas’ were left reeling by the movement of the three-time All-Ireland champions. At the break Portumna had opened out a 0-14 to 0-8 advantage as Canning tagged on fee after free to punish St Thomas’ reckless defending and their eight wides before half-time.
Conor Cooney and Eanna Burke closed the gap to four points after the restart as St Thomas’, who won the title for the first time last year, began to show some of the form that saw them dominate last season. But Portumna defended stoutly and silenced the St Thomas’ half-forward division easily, and when Canning hit a fourth point in-a-row from play late on, the defence of their title looked over.
However, Richie Murray goaled in the 59th minute, and when Gareth Heagney was harshly penalised for over-carrying deep in injury-time, Conor Cooney forced the replay after an epic encounter.
PORTUMNA: J Keane; G Heagney, E McEntee, O Treacy; C O’Hare, M Dolphin, E Lynch; L Smith, J Canning (0-13, 8f); K Hayes, D Hayes (0-5), A Smith (0-1); R O’Meara (0-2), O Canning (0-1), N Hayes.
Sub: M Ryan for O’Hare 55.
ST THOMAS’: P Skehill; C Burke, Robert Murray, S Burke; D Cooney, Darragh Burke (0-1), E Tannion; K Burke, David Burke (0-1); J Regan, C Cooney (0-11, 8f), B Burke (0-1); E Burke (0-3), S Cooney, A Kelly (0-2).
Subs: Richie Murray (1-0) for Regan 47, D Sherry for Tannion 53.
Referee: Alan Kelly.