TIPPERARY manager David Power received the perfect birthday present at Semple Stadium last night as his side came from 11 points down to defeat Kerry in a sensational Munster minor football semi-final.
Liam McGrath, cousin of Tipperary senior hurling star Noel, bagged the winning point in the sixth minute of stoppage time to crown a magnificent Premier County revival.
Extra-time loomed as the sides were deadlocked at 2-11 to 3-8 in a see-saw battle before McGrath held his nerve to drill over a superb left-footed winner. Cork referee James Bermingham had signalled for five minutes of extra-time and Kerry looked to have rescued themselves when full-forward Ciaran Keating levelled proceedings in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Keating’s score arrived after Tipp had taken the lead in the 59th minute through full-forward Michael Quinlivan, but there was still one late, decisive twist to come in an extraordinary tale.
Bermingham allowed a final attack to develop and McGrath’s late effort, more than 30 seconds over the allotted extra five minutes, sealed Tipp’s passage to a first Munster minor final since 2009.
Tipp’s victory was their first over Kerry in the Munster MFC since 2002 and it was a most unlikely win as the visitors twice led by 11 points in the opening half, and by 10 at half-time, 3-6 to 0-5.
But, remarkably, Tipp outscored Kerry 2-7 to 0-2 in the second-half as the visitors failed to register a score after the break until the 57th minute.
Tipp, playing with the aid of a second-half breeze, blowing into the town end, were a team transformed after a disastrous first-half showing.
Kerry had three goals registered within 16 minutes to take a firm grip on proceedings.
Tipp goalkeeper Gearóid Slattery, who showed up well against Limerick in the quarter-final, endured a nervy evening on this occasion and scored an ‘own goal’ in the seventh minute. Slattery appeared to have Pádraig Boyle’s speculative delivery under his control but the ball spilled from the Cashel custodian’s grasp and into the net.
Two minutes later, Kerry corner-forward Jamie Moriarty lobbed Slattery for the Kingdom’s second goal before Ciarán Keating cracked home a well-taken third in the 16th minute.
Trailing 0-2 to 3-4 at that stage, Tipp faced what appeared to be an impossible task. Kerry were relatively untroubled until half-time as Tipp struggled into the breeze and few would have predicted what was about to unfold.
But Quinlivan’s goal seven minutes after half-time revived the home challenge and sub Colman Kennedy ensured parity, 2-10 to 3-7, with a stunning second goal for Tipperary in the 58th minute.
Tipperary will meet Cork in the provincial final on July 3, in what will be the first Munster minor football decider between the two counties since 1995.
Scorers for Tipperary: C Kennedy 1-1 (0-1f), M Quinlivan 1-1, I Fahey 0-4 (2f, 1 45), L McGrath 0-2, S O’Brien, G Henry, TJ Ryan & P Quirke 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kerry: C Keating 1-2, J Moriarty 1-1, P Boyle 1-0, K McCarthy 0-2, J O’Donoghue 0-2f, S McCarthy 0-1.
TIPPERARY: G Slattery; N O’Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, S Kennedy; A McGuire, D Fitzell, B Maher; S O’Brien, D Butler; I Fahey, G Henry, D Lonergan; L McGrath, M Quinlivan, TJ Ryan.
Subs: P Quirke for Butler (17), C Kennedy for Lonergan (ht), C O’Riordan for McGuire (ht), J Lonergan for Henry (59).
KERRY: S Murphy; P Ó’Sé, T Morley, C Fitzgerald; M O’Connor, R Murphy, K Murphy; G O’Leary, S Keane; I McCarthy, P Boyle, J O’Donoghue; J Moriarty, C Keating, K McCarthy.
Subs: N Sheehy for O’Donoghue (30+1), S McCarthy for I McCarthy (40).
Referee: J Bermingham (Cork).
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