The Kilkenny under-16s proved the word ‘surrender’ is not in their hurling dictionary when snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Four points down with two minutes left on the referee Damien Fox’s watch, Kilkenny conjured two goals from out of nowhere for a thrilling 2-4 to 0-8 win in the Tipperary Supporters’ Cup final in Clonmel on Saturday.
The double whammy left Tipperary with nothing to do but slump to the ground when the referee blew that final whistle - the cup was heading Noreside.
The incredible comeback began when captain Tadhg O’Dwyer rifled a brilliantly unstoppable shot from the right which gave Tipp netminder Darragh Carey no chance.
The concluding score unfolded in near slow-motion. After Kilkenny won possession from the puck-out, John Quinn angled a pass to Ryan Bergin.
The initial shot was saved by Carey, but the sliotar fell into the path of a grateful Daniel O’Connor, who had plenty of time to gather and shoot at close range. Again Carey between the posts hadn’t a chance; an unlikely victory was in the bag.
The incredulous Kilkenny camp, which included former county star goalkeeper Michael Walsh on the sideline, celebrated in a manner befitting such a late-late raid.
For Tipperary, all they could do afterwards was reflect on how they lost this final. Apart from allowing the Kilkenny forwards the space to carve out those two goals, they will look back on a six-minute period after the break during which they shot six wides on the bounce and followed those missed chances with another wide after a badly-needed point by Stephen Quirke.
That put them two clear and, after Ryan Bergin intervened with a nice score for Kilkenny, further points by Michael Connors, Dean Walsh and Ross Peters - the latter an excellent effort from a tight angle on the right wing - had them four up and seemingly on their way to victory over the county’s old rivals with just two minutes left.
Then, a Kilkenny forward line which had scarcely created any goal chances in the match up to that stage, managed to hit the net twice. That was enough.
The first half of this final in Clonmel was evenly-matched, with Kilkenny opening the scoring through Ryan Bergin before Tipp hit back with two converted frees by Michael Connors.
Tadhg O’Dwyer hit two further points, with Tipperary answering with a fine effort by Alan Tynan in the meantime, leaving the scores level at 0-3 each at the break.
Kilkenny’s win capped a day which saw them beat Limerick, Offaly and Wexford in the first phase and Waterford in the semi-finals. Tipperary drew with Galway and beat Antrim and Laois before beating Cork in their semi-final.
Kilkenny - Shane Murphy, Michael Cody, Diarmuid O’Dwyer, Jack Lawlor, Conor Doheny, Robbie Buckley, Cathal McGrath, Ross Butler, Darragh Joyce, Tadhg O’Dwyer (1-2, 0-1 free), Gary Bryan, Ryan Bergin (0-2), Robbie Murphy, Daniel O’Connor (1-0), Niall Walsh. Subs: John Quinn for Walsh, Andrew Gaffney for Bryan.
Tipperary - Darragh Carey, Tommy Lowry, Darragh Peters, Jamie Bergin, Michael Ryan, Jack Skehan, Eric Fanning, Liam Fahy, Thomas Nolan, Alan Tynan (0-1), Stephen Quirke (0-1), Aidan Buckley, Dean Walsh (0-1), Michael Connors (0-3, 0-2 frees), Ross Peters (0-2). Sub: Kevin Hassett for Fahy.
Ref - Damien Fox (Clare).