The biting cold weather was certainly in check with the calendar, but the quality of hurling and the manner in which either side picked themselves up off the canvas at various junctures in the 80 minutes was more in keeping with a knockout fixture at the height of summer, much less the second Wednesday in January.
On 11 occasions the sides were level and, all told, this was a quarter-final that neither deserved to lose.
Reigning champions Ardscoil Rís were bidding to reach a 10th consecutive Harty Cup semi-final, but with 12 minutes remaining in normal time, they found themselves in a spot of bother. Largely of their own making, mind.
The Limerick school had played with the wind in the opening period. They didn’t, however, take full advantage. A Joe Stack goal on 18 minutes for Midleton CBS, their first score of the contest, cancelled out three early Ardscoil Rís points and while two Brian Ryan frees either side of a Rian Considine point left them three clear the break, 0-7 to 1-1, they would have hoped for a far healthier advantage.
Midleton, for whom the full-back line of Adam Daly, Sean O’Leary Hayes and Eoghan O’Sullivan were outstanding, quickly ate into their opponents’ advantage upon the change of ends. Two Liam Gosnell placed ball efforts had the gap back to the minimum by the 32nd minute.
Brendan Twomey provided the leveller and the excellent Charlie Terry edged the Midleton college in front for the first time. Brian Ryan responded for Ardscoil Rís, but the underdogs moved two clear when Ger Millerick and Gosnell (free) nailed the target.
We should have known the 2016 champions wouldn’t relinquish their crown without one hell of a fight and Ryan’s fourth free on 49 minutes, just their second score of the half, pared the margin back to the solitary. Paul O’Brien assumed free-taking duties thereafter and the wing-forward levelled matters four minutes from time. Now, here’s where it got really interesting.
Liam Gosnell’s fourth free nudged Midleton back in front with less than 60 seconds left on the watch. Direct from the puck-out, possession was worked to Ardscoil Rís sub Will Henn and he split the posts despite the attention of four red jerseys.
Back up the field went Midleton and a foul on the sideline, some 50 metres from goal, presented Gosnell with a chance to be the hero. He duly obliged.
Referee Fergal Horgan, though, allowed for four minutes of additional time and in the third of those, Diarmuid Ryan collected a short free from his namesake Brian. Having caught it twice, the wing-back steadied the sliotar on his hurley and dissected the posts. 1-9 to 0-12 read the scoreboard. Extra-time it was.
Ardscoil Rís substitute James Daly found the net early in the first period of extra-time. It proved a brief high as Gosnell’s speculative effort from out the field a minute later evaded ‘keeper Bryan Curtin. Level game once more. It was 2-10 to 1-13 when they swapped ends. Gosnell, who’d finish with 1-9, and Darragh Carroll traded minors, the latter a superb sideline cut. Gosnell and Ryan had one more spin on the carousel and although Gosnell was subsequently presented with a chance to sneak the verdict, his free on the 65-metre line tailed left and wide.
The replay is expected to be played early next week.
B Ryan (0-7, 0-5 frees); J Daly (1-0); P O’Brien (0-2 frees), J McInerney (0-2 each); D Carroll (0-1 sc), D Ryan, R Considine, W Henn (0-1 each).
L Gosnell (1-9, 0-6 frees, 0-1 ’65); J Stack (1-0); B Twomey, G Millerick, C Terry (0-1 each).
B Curtin (Adare); P Heaney (Na Piarsaigh), R Connolly (Adare), J Considine (Patrickswell); J Boylan (Na Piarsaigh), D Carroll (Newport), D Ryan (Cratloe); B Ryan (South Liberties), J Gleeson (Na Piarsaigh); P O’Brien (Mungret St Paul’s), R Duff (Mungret St Paul’s), R McCarthy (Na Piarsaigh); R Considine (Cratloe), D Woulfe (Kilmallock), J McInerney (Cratloe).
J Delahunty (Newport) for Heaney (36 mins); W Henn (Na Piarsaigh) for McCarthy (48); J Daly (Na Piarsaigh) for Considine (53); C O’Reilly (Patrickswell) for McInerney (59); E McEvoy (Na Piarsaigh) for Boylan (65); J McInerney for O’Brien (74, inj); J Boylan for Gleeson (77).
R Walsh (St Colman’s); A Daly (Midleton), S O’Leary Hayes (Midleton), E O’Sullivan (St Colman’s); R McConville (Midleton), J McDonnell (Aghada), A Walsh Barry (Carrigtwohill); S O’Meara (Midleton), C Coughlan (Killeagh); B Twomey (Carrigtwohill), G Millerick (Fr O’Neill’s), C Terry (Aghada); L O’Shea (Lisgoold), L Gosnell (Carrigtwohill), J Stack (Kiltha Óg).
L Duggan Murray (St Colman’s) for Coughlan (47 mins); P O’Brien (Midleton) for Terry (54); C Terry for Twomey (60); J Landers (Killeagh) for O’Sullivan (60); C Coughlan for McDonnell (67).
F Horgan (Tipperary).