Former All-Ireland senior club hurling champions Birr secured their seventh Leinster title in controversial circumstances at O'Connor Park, Tullamore today when they held out for a 1-11 to 0-13 victory over Ballyboden St. Endas.
in testing conditions, a long range sideline free from Ballyboden midfielder Enda Kinsella was sent in towards the square in the 62nd-minute, and although television replays clearly showed that the ball came off the stick of Birr defender Brian Watkins for a '65', the shot was signalled as a wide by the umpires and from the resulting puck-out referee Anthony Stapleton blew the full-time whistle.
The Offaly side looked like they would run away with this game after they held a 1-9 to 0-3 half-time advantage with Paul O'Meara grabbing the goal midway through the half following a well placed Brian Whelehan pass. The veteran captain was in a position to go for goal himself, but he opted to pass instead.
O'Meara was Birr's top scorer in the opening half with 1-3 as first time Leinster finalists Ballyboden found it hard to cope with the experienced Offaly outfit.
Just three points separated the sides after eight minutes - Birr held a 0-5 to 0-2 lead with points from Emmett Carroll and David Curtin keeping Ballyboden in touch.
Birr would have been as much as 12 points in front at the interval but for an excellent save from Ballyboden goalkeeper Gary Maguire, who had an outstanding game between the posts. Maguire pulled off an excellent stop to deny Gary Hanniffy and keep the South Dublin side in contention.
But Ballyboden were simply a different side in the second half and it took 23 minutes of the second half before Birr would add to their own tally.
Simon Lambert led the charge with the first point of the second half and further scores from Emmett Carroll, David Sweeney, Stephen Perkins and David Curtin cut the gap to five points midway through the half.
Birr had just two decent chances for scores during this period, but Whelehan had his effort cleared while O'Meara watched his shot go wide of the target.
Ballyboden continued to claw their way back into the game and pointed frees from Malachy Travers and Curtin, along with a good Shane Durkin point from play, reduced the deficit to a goal.
With eight minutes remaining two Conal Keaney points from play reduced the gap to the minimum margin, but this was as close as the Dublin outfit could get as Birr responded strongly in the closing minutes.
Points from O'Meara and Simon Whelehan ensured Birr held a 1-11 to 0-12 lead as injury-time approached before a seventh point of the day from Curtin cut the gap to the minimum again.
Ballyboden pressed hard in search of an equalising score but Birr prevailed as one-point winners in a controversial finish.
Birr: Paul O'Meara 1-4, Simon Whelehan, Brian Whelehan (1f, 1 '65'), Rory Hanniffy 0-2 each, Barry Whelehan 0-1
Ballyboden St. Endas: David Curtin 0-7 (7f), Emmet Carroll, Conal Keaney 0-2 each, Simon Lambert, Shane Durkin 0-1 each