It was now or never for Our Lady’s Templemore in Saturday’s epic Harty Cup semi-final against De La Salle in Bansha.
Having watched a seven-point lead become a three-point deficit down the home straight, Our Lady’s were staring defeat squarely in the face, until Kevin Hassett stood over a sideline cut in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Hassett sent in a perfect delivery, captain Ryan’s hurley applied the crucial touch and when the De Le Salle net billowed, the tie was headed for extra-time.
Jerry Kelly kicked a crucial extra-time goal and Our Lady’s were through to a final showdown with Ardscoil Rís on February 20 — with the dream of a first Harty Cup since 1978 very much alive.
Loughmore-Castleiney starlet Ryan gasped: “I thought it was gone! When the ball came in, I was thinking — ‘pull on the thing’. Three points down, I knew we had to get this.”
His side were 0-13 to 0-6 clear in the 48th minute but with Thomas Douglas banging home brilliant solo goals in the 53rd and 60th minutes, De La Salle were in the box seat and seemingly on course for a fifth decider.
Ryan, an inspirational figure, and Templemore had other ideas and ultimately, they would not be left to rue a match tally of 18 wides.
Templemore still had work to do in extra-time and after Lyndon Fairbrother forced a blinding save from Ronan Ryan, Kelly beat the De La Salle custodian, somehow getting his effort away as the defensive pack converged.
It was the same net that Ryan had found minutes earlier and Kelly’s goal handed Templemore a 2-13 to 2-11 lead at the turnaround.
It was a two-point advantage they would hold to the finish and Templemore, beaten finalists in 2000, 2002, and 2013, are daring to dream again.
They can thank their captain for that, while there were other notable contributions from the likes of Steven Nolan, Paul Bergin, Fairbrother, and Brian McGrath.
The early exchanges had seen the sides level four times but a run of seven unanswered points either side of half-time opened up a 0-10 to 0-4 lead for Templemore.
They looked set for a comfortable win when Kelly opened up that seven-point lead with 12 minutes left but a run of 2-4 without reply had DLS in charge before Ryan’s crucial intervention.
A Ryan 1-2, J Kelly 1-1, S Nolan & P Bergin 0-3 each, B McGrath (2f) & L Fairbrother 0-2 each, D O’Shea & J Bergin (sl) 0-1 each.
H Ruddle 0-7 (6f, 1 sl), T Douglas 2-1, M Costigan 0-2 (1f), P Hennebry, M Mahony & C Quinn 0-1 each.
J Kennedy; C O’Meara, D Ryan, E Ryan; T Murphy, B McGrath, K Hassett; P Cadell, D O’Shea; S Nolan, A Ryan, J Bergin; P Bergin, J Kelly, L Fairbrother.
A O’Meara for Kelly (51), C Kinnane for P Bergin (58), Kelly for O’Meara (64), R McCormack for Kinnane (70).
R Ryan; C Giles Doran, L Wall, G Cullinane; N Byrne, P Hennebry, M Kearns; D Power, G Coppinger; H Ruddle, D Coady, M Costigan; M Mahony, T Douglas, E Daly.
B O’Sullivan for Daly (inj, 13), D Walsh for Coady (32), K Hennessy for Coppinger (44), C Quinn for Ruddle (47), J Stone for O’Sullivan (52), Ruddle for Hennessy (64), Hennessy for Stone (70), O’Sullivan for Quinn (72).
J Larkin (Cork)