Slieverue came through a battle of North versus South with Graigue-Ballycallan to get their hands on the minor hurling Roinn B spoils.
Played in front of a bumper crowd in Piltown, this was a cracking game where the destination of the silverware was in doubt until the end.
Graigue-Ballycallan started the game in lightning-fast mode. By the ninth minute they were 0-4 to 0-0 in front thanks to scores from Dylan Lanigan, Billy Ryan, Podge Dunphy and Philly Cahill (free). Slieverue looked to be in real trouble, as the Ballycallan forward line caused untold trouble.
It took Slieverue 10 minutes to register their first score - but what a vital score it was! It looked like their hopes were dashed when Eoin Kenny’s powerful shot was stopped by Ballycallan ‘keeper Bill Cuddihy, but corner-forward Cillian Power pounced to slam home the rebound.
The goal rocked Graigue. Eamonn Egan settled the ship with two quick points (one free), but a minor score from Joe O’Brien (free) meant Slieverue were just two points behind after 20 minutes.
Slieverue had been slow to start, but as the half wore on their momentum grew. The game shifted in their favour soon after thanks to their captain Kenny, who bagged a goal to shoot his side into the lead (2-1 to 0-6).
The teams traded points after that, but this see-saw game tilted back in Graigue’s favour when a defensive mix-up allowed Billy Ryan to sneak in and grab a goal for the Northerners. While Joe O’Brien converted a late free for Slieverue, it was Ballycallan who had their noses in front at the interval (1-8 to 2-3).
Whatever was said in the Slieverue dressing-room at half-time had the desired effect as, within seconds of the restart, the Southerners rose to the challenge.
Right from the thrown-in Slieverue won possession, Peter Murphy hoisting a long diagonal ball into the corner-forward position. Cillian Power had a lot of work to do but went for broke, rounding the Ballycallan backs before rifling a low shot past Cuddihy.
That score was met with a surge in Slieverue confidence. Working as a team they chased Ballycallan down at every turn, giving them little time on the ball. Minutes later they took a huge step towards the title, bagging goal number four.
There seemed little danger when Eoin Kenny played a speculative ball into the forwards, but taking a chance paid off for Eamonn Phelan. Believing the sliotar would break his way, Phelan’s faith was rewarded when he struck the ball on the volley, driving the sliotar into the bottom right hand corner of the net (4-4 to 1-8).
The goal was a body blow for Ballycallan, but they refused to throw in the towel. They enjoyed a good spell after that goal, Eamon Egan (free) and Shane Hennessy cutting the gap to three points with a quarter of the game to play.
The Northerners threw everything at the Slieverue defence in the final quarter, but the Southerners repelled every attack. Their hard work paid off, as Eamonn Phelan and Eamon Egan (free) posted the final scores of the game to lead Slieverue to their first ever county title at minor level.
Slieverue - Gavin Grant, David Irish, Jack Frisby, Dylan O’Keeffe, Donnacha Griffin, Luke O’Donovan, John Mulcair, Joe O’Brien (0-3, 0-2 frees), Peter Murphy, Gary Walsh, Ollie Mullally, Colm Fleming, Cillian Power (2-1), Eoin Kenny (1-4), Eamonn Phelan (1-0). Sub: Willie Mullally for Fleming.
Graigue-Ballycallan - Bill Cuddihy, Tommy Ronan, Richard Keoghan, Tom Dunphy, Evan Walsh, Philip Cahill (0-1, free), Conor Flynn, Eamon Egan (0-5, 0-4 frees), Shane Hennessy (0-1), Dylan Lanigan (0-1), Billy Ryan (1-1), Colum Prendiville (0-2), Jamie Lawlor, Padraic Dunphy (0-1), Sean Ryan.
Referee - John Kennedy (Shamrocks).