Presentation Athenry produced a stirring final quarter to secure passage to a second successive All-Ireland post-primary SHC final.
Trailing by 2-5 to 1-6 entering the final quarter, last year’s beaten finalists struck six points on the bounce to turn a two-point deficit into a four-point advantage three minutes from time.
Mark Kennedy, Athenry’s top-scorer on the day, knocked over his third free to light the fuse on this spell of dominance, TJ Brennan following with a fine score from halfway.
Adam Clarke had the Connacht champions in front on 50 minutes, with Gavin Lee, Kennedy and Adam Brett subsequently swelling their lead.
A Ryan McCarthy free did bring it back to a one-score game entering second-half stoppages, but it was a goal that Midleton now required and despite two frees bring dropped into the Athenry goalmouth, the Harty Cup winners were unable to fashion a third green flag.
The frantic scenes at the finish as Midleton tried conjure an equaliser brought to a close a thoroughly entertaining second-half of hurling, given the extremely heavy underfoot conditions.
A scrappy Mark Kennedy goal on 38 minutes had nudged Athenry into a 1-6 to 1-4 lead, but this was short-lived as Ross O’Regan registered Midleton’s second goal on 38 minutes. It was to prove, however, O’Regan’s final act, the centre-forward shown a red card for lashing out at Shane Quirke immediately after rattling the net. Athenry’s numerical advantage, mind you, didn’t last long, as Christy Brennan walked three minutes later for clipping the helmet of Ciaran Joyce.
Ultimately, Midleton’s paltry tally of 0-2 in the closing 22 minutes is what let them down. They also failed to score during the opening 21 minutes of the first-half. Despite this, they still held the upper hand on the scoreboard at half-time, leading by 1-3 to 0-5. Ryan McCarthy dispatched a 31st minute penalty to secure Midleton’s opening goal, Athenry having had an earlier penalty saved by Jack McGann.
Presentation Athenry will meet either defending championship St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny or Christian Brothers College, Cork in the Croke Cup final.
Scorers for Presentation Athenry: M Kennedy (1-6, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ‘65); TJ Brennan, A Clarke (0-2 each); A Brett, G Lee (0-1 each).
Scorers for Midleton CBS: R McCarthy (1-3, 1-0 pen, 0-3 frees); J Stack (0-3); R O’Regan (1-0).
Midleton CBS: J McGann (Kiltha Óg); C O’Brien (Midleton), D Healy (Kiltha Óg), D Hogan (Killeagh); P Hassett (Fr O’Neill’s), C Joyce (Kiltha Óg), D Moran (Kiltha Óg); R McCarthy (Killeagh), S Quirke (Midleton); C Hickey (Lisgoold), R O’Regan (Midleton), G Carroll (Midleton); K Farmer (Midleton), J Stack (Kiltha Óg), J Hankard (Fr O’Neill’s).
Subs: R Landers (Killeagh) for O’Brien (22); O Broderick (Killeagh) for Carroll (HT); A Nganou (Midleton) for Hickey (54).
Presentation Athenry: P Rabbitte (Athenry); E Lawless (Athenry), C Brennan (Clarinbridge), I McGlynn (Kilconieron); D Parr (Athenry), S Quirke (Athenry), O Salmon (Clarinbridge); B Lee (Athenry), TJ Brennan (Clarinbridge); S Burke (Kilconireon), A Brett (Killimordaly), J Reilly (Turloughmore); M Kennedy (Clarinbridge), A Clarke (Craughwell), G Lee (Clarinbridge).
Referee: F Horgan