Despite their numerical disadvantage for almost three-quarters of the game, substitute James Fitzpatrick batted the ball to the net in the third minute of injury-time after a rasping shot from Donal Hannon was initially saved by goalkeeper Gavin Connolly.
“We are immensely proud of the calibre of players we are producing in Duhallow,” said Tim Burke. “We knew it was going to be a real character test. But there is a great buzz in our camp and they are all great buddies. There were fellas who didn’t get to start, including James Fitz, but he kept his head up, came in, and put away the goal.”
Alan Nolan might have thought he bagged the winning goal five minutes from the end to give the titleholders a four-point lead. But, there was still time for Duhallow’s Hannon to reduce the gap to three and for Fitzpatrick’s equaliser in an entertaining decider despite the heavy conditions.
Wind-assisted Duhallow were 0-6 to 0-5 ahead after 20 minutes. Michael O’Halloran and John O’Sullivan the pick of the Blackrock attack, while Garrett Linehan, Barry O’Connor and Liam O’Keeffe split the posts for Duhallow. Then came Linehan’s dismissal for a straight red card on 22 minutes. This was a huge blow but importantly, Duhallow’s intensity never dropped, and their defence was simply outstanding. They added three points to lead 0-9 to 0-5 at the interval.
The second half was 12 minutes old before Duhallow raised their first flag from an O’Keeffe free out on the right touchline, but Blackrock were more productive, hitting three points from O’Halloran (2) and Stephen Murphy. When John O’Sullivan rifled over another brace, they were level for the third time, 0-10 apiece with 10 minutes left to play.
Both raided their bench as O’Keeffe edged Duhallow back into the lead. Ciarán Cormack and an O’Halloran free handed the initiative to the Rockies and when Nolan netted, it appeared to be game over for Duhallow. But, they had other ideas. Their keeper Barry Kenneally had to be alert too, and showing remarkable spirit, they nailed 1-1 in the dying minutes.
Fergal Ryan didn’t hide his disappointment at not holding out with the extra man. “Duhallow are a battling team. It didn’t look like they were down a man. They did most of the hurling. Some of our bigger names didn’t really perform. There will be places up for grabs again the next day,” he said.
The replay will be staged at Páirc Uí Rinn on Friday night, 7.30pm.
M O’Halloran (0-5, two frees), J O’Sullivan (0-4), A Nolan (1-0), S Murphy (0-2, one free), C Cormack (0-1).
L O’Keeffe (0-5, three frees), D Hannon (0-3, one free), J Fitzpatrick (1-0), B O’Connor (0-2), D Browne and G Linehan (0-1 each).
G Connolly; J Ryan, J Cashman, R Coleman; A Murphy, A O’Callaghan, N Cashman; S Murphy, D Meaney; J O’Sullivan, I O’Keeffe, R Dineen; A Nolan, P Lynch, M O’Halloran.
C Cormack for P Lynch, T Deasy for R Dineen (both 43), L O’Sullivan for I O’Keeffe (52).
B Kenneally (Kanturk); P Allen (Newmarket), P Walsh (Kanturk), J Murphy (Dromtariffe); A O’Keeffe (Kanturk), D Browne (Kanturk), K Cremin (Dromtariffe); S Crowley (Kilbrin), J O’Callaghan (Meelin); D Kenneally (Kanturk), I Walsh (Kanturk), G Linehan (Kilbrin); B O’Connor (Newmarket), D Hannon (Newmarket), L O’Keeffe (Kanturk).
J Fitzpatrick (Kanturk) for I Walsh, S Howard (Dromtariffe) for S Crowley (both 42), C O’Keeffe (Newmarket) for D Kenneally, C Murphy (Castlemagner) for B O’Connor (both 55).
N Wall (Carrigaline).