JAMES O’BRIEN scored the vital goal with less than three minutes remaining to give Ard Scoil Rís victory in an enthralling Dr Harty Cup (Munster Colleges SHC) tie at Tipperary Town yesterday.
The Lismore lads, who won the All-Ireland Colleges SHC B title last year, were heading for a famous victory when the Ard Scoil centre forward struck the decisive score.
While Ard Scoil breathed a long sigh of relief, the last-gasp goal was heartbreaking for Blackwater CS.
It appeared as if Ard Scoil — after battling back from a two-point deficit to lead 0-8 to 0-7 at half time — had taken control at the three-quarter stage when corner-forward Kevin Keane hammered the ball to the right corner of the net after a goalmouth melee with the Lismore goalkeeper, Darren Curran.
Up to that point Blackwater CS had matched them score for score but they now found themselves four points down and, with the Ard Scoil midfielders Conor Ryan and Declan Hannon in control, hopes of a rally seemed remote.
A quick point from their flying wing forward Pat Fitzgerald reignited their challenge, centre-back Shane O’Rourke pointed a long-range free and when ace free-taker Paudie Prendergast added a seventh point to his tally, they were just a point down with enough time remaining to grab an equaliser.
Ryan, who was outstanding at midfield for Ard Scoil, steadied matters with a superb point from play but still Lismore pushed forward and they got their just reward when John Prendergast’s high ball was blocked down in the goalmouth and Peter O’Keeffe doubled on it for a spectacular goal to give his side a one-point lead with six minutes remaining.
Moments later Fionan Murray broke away from Ryan in the centre of the field to send the ball between the posts to give Blackwater CS a two-point lead.
This thriller was not going to end just yet, however, and in another all-out onslaught, Ard Scoil full-forward, Kevin Downes tapped the ball ahead to centre-forward O’Brien, who took it on the run and gave Curran no chance with a great finish.
It was a dramatic finale to a bubbling game, and while Ard Scoil Rís will progress from this test, the steely, never-say-die performance from Blackwater CS should ensure that they, too, will have their day.
Scorers for Ard Scoil Rís: K. Keane 1-2, S. O’Brien 0-4 (0-1 free), J. O’Brien 1-0, K. Downes (frees) C. Ryan 0-2 each, D. Hannon 0-1 (free).
Scorers for Blackwater CS: P. Prendergast 0-7 (0-6 frees), P. O’Keeffe 1-1, P. Fitzgerald 0-2, S. O’Rourke (free), F. Murray and R. Walsh 0-1 each.
Ard Scoil Rís: S. Dowling; R. Hennessy, S. O’Connor, E. Mulvihill; T. Nolan, C. McInerney, S. Moloney; C. Ryan, D. Hannon; N. Kennedy, J. O’Brien, S. O’Brien; R. Henehan, K. Downes, K. Keane.
Sub: N. Shannon for K. Keane (50).
BLACKWATER CS: D. Curran; C. Looby, L. Byrne, N. Aherne; S. Heaphy, S. O’Rourke, T. O’Brien; D. Fives, F. Murray; P. Fitzgerald, R. Walsh, J. Prendergast; B. Bennett, P. Prendergast, P. O’Keeffe.
Sub: E. Sheehan for R. Walsh (39).
Referee: R. O’Connor (Tipperary).
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