The trapdoor to the junior hurling ranks remains closed after Young Irelands dodged the drop - but boy, did they leave it late to escape!
Trailing Mooncoin by six points (0-14 to 1-5) with normal time running out, it looked like the game was up for the Gowran men but the miracle of Ballyhale was about to materialise.
Although they halved the deficit when Paul Holden rifled a 59th minute penalty to the Mullinavat end net, the score looked cosmetic as Mooncoin seemed certain to hold on. Not so!
A game that twisted this and that had time for one final change of direction as the action moved into the second minute of injury-time.
Tom Drennan did well to win possession Martin Carey’s booming clearance near the left sideline and flick the sliotar inside to Dick Carroll, who set off for the posts. His run was halted by Cormac Daly’s challenge but the sliotar found its way to Holden, who somehow found enough room in a crowded goalmouth to squeeze a shot inside the left post.
The relief was written all over Gowran faces, as much as pain was etched on those of the Mooncoin players who had been within seconds of securing their survival.
It was a strange end to an equally afternoon where both sides showed largely why they found themselves in such trouble. Both enjoyed spells where they really sparkled, but also suffered bouts of frustration.
For Young Irelands, a tally of 13 wides (eight in the first half, when they did most of the hurling) really hurt them. Mooncoin had their problems too, struggling at times to impose themselves on the game around midfield and in front of goal.
A tepid start meant that Mooncoin held a narrow lead (0-2 to 0-1) after the early stages - Paul Holden pulling a point back after Diarmuid Mackey bagged a double to get Mooncoin up and running - before the game shook itself awake.
Tom Carroll was the catalyst, battling well to win Martin Carey’s eighth minute puck-out from the middle of a cluster of players and then palming the sliotar off to Dick Carroll on his right.
With a channel to goal opening up, Carroll saw his chance and took it. Bursting forward, he soloed on before lashing his shot past Paddy Kinsella.
The goal was a due reward for Gowran’s work. They had the better of the midfield exchanges and threatened more in attack, but much to Mooncoin’s relief their opponents couldn’t turn chances into too many points.
With scores proving hard to come by - both sides went through some lengthy barren spells - that Carroll goal was the difference by the time half-time rolled around. Mooncoin had worked doggedly, reducing arrears to two points thanks to Cormac Fleming, but they found it tough to break down a resolute Gowran defence.
Irelands endured some frustration of their own up front, not least from frees, but Paul Holden made sure they went in three clear when his injury-time went over via a post (1-4 to 0-4).
Whatever was said in the Mooncoin dressing-room at half-time worked as they tore into Gowran on the restart. Eoin Henebry got them going in fine style, the midfielder profiting from the quick passing of Cormac Fleming and Stephen Crowley to split the posts within seconds of the throw-in. He did even better a minute later, winning a long Carey puck-out before ending a rampaging solo with another fine point (1-4 to 0-6).
With Gowran still looking a little indecisive on the shooting front, spurning more frees, it was left to Mooncoin to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Michael Grace got them back on level terms with a 36th minute point but they didn’t stay there for long. Two Ray Wall frees moved them in front by the 42nd minute, a position they fully deserved given their bright start to the half.
Young Irelands struggled to find any rhythm in the third quarter. They didn’t open their second half account until 12 minutes from time, when Dick Carroll latched on to a loose ball and added a composed finish.
Incredibly, even then they were still only a point behind (0-9 to 1-5) - maybe a sign as to why both sides found themselves in the relegation mire. However, it didn’t stay that way for long. Suddenly, and out of nowhere, Mooncoin went from second to fifth gear and raced into the distance.
They were helped in no small way by three points in quick succession from Michael Grace. The first came after Seamus Kearns robbed Ollie Carter of possession, the sliotar coming to Grace via Diarmuid Mackey’s pass. The second score saw Stephen Crowley hassle his man and win possession before Grace coolly and calmly split the Knocktopher end posts.
The last of the Grace points was something special. With his side (and supporters) now whipped into a frenzy, Grace dropped deep to win a ball inside his own half and duly fired it over from his own 65m line.
It was a score that spurred Mooncoin on. Ray Wall made good use of their newfound momentum, snapping up two quick frees to round off a purple patch of five points in three minutes and leave his side on the brink of victory (0-14 to 1-5).
Things looked ominous for Young Irelands - but they weren’t done yet.
SCORERS: Young Irelands - Paul Holden (3-2, 1-0 pen, 0-1 free), Dick Carroll (1-1), Sean Kehoe (0-1). Mooncoin - Michael Grace (0-4); Ray Wall (0-4, frees); Diarmuid Mackey, Eoin Henebry (0-2 each); Danny Purcell, Cormac Fleming (0-1 each).
Mooncoin - Paddy Kinsella, Eoin Crowley, Niall Mackey, Liam Henebry, Seamus Kearns, Cormac Daly, Sean Wall, Ray Wall, Eoin Henebry, Jamie McGrath, Michael Grace, Cormac Fleming, Danny Purcell, Diarmuid Mackey, Stephen Crowley. Subs: Andy Brennan for Fleming, 39 mins; Ciaran Dunphy for McGrath, 49 mins.
Young Irelands - Martin Carey, Martin Carter, Michael Walsh, Ciaran Carroll, J.P. Treacy, Emmet Byrne, J.J. Lennon, Michael Lennon, Niall Walsh, Tom Carroll, Chris Nolan, Paul Holden, Dick Carroll, Sean Kehoe, John Morris. Subs: Tom Drennan for Nolan, 31 mins; Ollie Carter for Morris, 36 mins; Johnny Dunphy for Lennon, 41 mins; Paul Delahunty for Carroll, 55 mins.
Referee - Sean Cleere (O’Loughlin Gaels).