Two fantastic second-half saves from long-serving shot-stopper JP Fitzpatrick sent St Mary’s on their way to a first Munster junior hurling final.
Carrick Davins cut their seven-point lead to two in an exciting finish but Fitzpatrick, a Munster minor winner with Waterford back in 1992, denied both Willie O’Dwyer and Michael Cronin from close range.
“He was the difference between the teams today,” declared an ecstatic St Mary’s coach, Dan Shanahan. “His puckouts were good and he hasn’t conceded a goal in four games.”
Captain and former Down hurler Brendan McGourty was a colossus at centre-back. “I don’t know how the senior clubs missed out on him!”
Top scorer Eoin Kearns accounted for eight points including two huge second-half efforts that his team badly needed. Kevin Sheehan shot three from play while midfield partner Sean Fitzpatrick worked himself to a standstill.
A quickfire 1-5 in eight first-half minutes put the Waterford champions in control. On 13 minutes, Sheehan’s point attempt struck the crossbar and Stephen Coffey crashed the rebound to the net. Kearns got three points in this spell including a wonder score where he controlled the ball on his hurl before it flew over the sideline. Further white flags from Kevin and Jason Sheehan sent them seven clear (1-6 to 0-2).
Adam Foran fired Davins’ first score in 16 minutes. Kearns took his tally to six by the break as they went in 1-9 to 0-6 ahead.
Carrick chipped away at the lead during a dominant third quarter. Lee Mackey, Conor Whelan, Patrick Harris, and Willie O’Dwyer brought the gap down to two with 11 minutes left.
Kearns then opened the shoulders to strike two inspirational points from distance. Carrick wasted three goal chances but still clawed their way back within two entering injury-time.
A 66th-minute free around a crowded goalmouth was cleared and the St Mary’s fans erupted in the stand.
Shanahan made a mad dash across the field to celebrate with the fans.
“I’m delighted for the players and for the supporters. To see the rural clubs winning and getting to Munster finals is unbelievable.”
St Mary’s are the seventh different Déise club to make a Munster junior final in the last seven years.
Scorers for St Mary’s: E Kearns (0-8, 4 frees); S Coffey (1-0); K Sheehan (0-3); S Fitzpatrick, J Sheehan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Carrick Davins: M Whelan (0-3 1 s-l); L Mackey (2 65s), P Harris (2fs), C Whelan (0-2 each); A Foran, L Faulkner, B Roche, N Butler, W O’Dwyer (0-1 each).
ST MARY’S: JP Fitzpatrick; C Tobin, D Coffey, R Gleeson; D Tobin, B McGourty, A Kearney; S Fitzpatrick, K Sheehan; E Kearns, J Skehan, J Power; S Coffey, M Kearns, J Sheehan.
Subs: C Geary for Power (45), JJ Coffey for S Coffey (47), J O’Shea for J Sheehan (59), G Hallinan for Geary (63).
CARRICK DAVINS: G Robinson; R Cooke, S Cronin, C Mackey; A Foran, L Mackey, J Houlihan; M Ryan, B Roche; P Harris, W O’Dwyer, M Whelan; L Faulkner, N Butler, C Whelan.
Subs: M Cronin for O’Dwyer (47)
Referee: M Maher (Cork)