This Jim Farrell memorial cup hurling challenge at well presented Ballyragget on Friday night looked like petering out into an easy enough win for the Southerners when the impressive John Hayes goaled after a great run by Jonjo Farrell in the 34th minute to put his side 1-10 to 0-4 ahead, but things changed dramatically afterwards.
In a game played in bitterly cold and at times damp conditions the Southern side looked the better team in the first half. They deservedly led by 0-9 to 0-4 at the interval. Six of the points came from frees from the aforementioned Hayes with Martin Power, Stuart Waugh and Nickey Kenny also getting on the scoresheet.
Nickey Cleere, who was the North’s main marksman, got three of his side’s first half total while with Bill Staunton also notched a point.
Johnny Hayes continued where he left off in the first half by pointing a free for the South in the opening minute of the new half. Then Jonjo Farrell’s defence splitting run set up the goal for Hayes and the game looked to be done and dusted.
However, the North were slowly coming to grips with the challenge. Four unanswered points in as many minutes boosted them. At the three-quarter stage the South were still five points clear, 1-10 to 0-8 and although the North were breeze assisted the South looked like they would hang on.
Things got worse for the North when they had two players sidelined for second bookable offences within a short period. The South also had a player sent off for a second yellow card, as both sides went all out for victory.
Three Nickey Cleere points and one each from Cathal Kenny and substitute Eddie Hickey without reply levelled with two minutes remaining. Nickey Cleere edged the North ahead with a pointed free, but John Hayes, who scored 1-13, forced the game to extra-time.
Hayes hit three points in the opening minutes of the extra-time. Nickey Cleere got one back for the North from another free, but a similar score by John Hayes put the South a goal clear, 1-16 to 0-16, and seemingly on the verge of victory.
However, in one last gasp attack the Northerners were awarded a 20 metre free. Rory Hickey became the hero of the hour when he rifled the free to the net for the only score of that second period of extra-time to tie it all up at 1-16 each.
So a game that started at a pedestrian pace ended in a welter of excitement. Credit to both sides for producing an exciting game.
Scorers: North - Nickey Cleere (0-11, eight frees); Rory Hickey (1-0); Cathal English (0-2); Cathal Kenny, Eddie Hickey, Bill Staunton (0-1 each). South - Johnny Hayes (1-13, 0-11 frees); Nickey Kenny, Stuart Waugh, Martin Power (0-1 each).
North - Gary Delaney (Cloneen), Darragh Wafer (Bennettsbridge), Geoff Morrissey, capt (St Patrick’s), Pat Carroll (Lisdowney), Pat O’Neill (Bennettsbridge), Niall Doherty (Galmoy), Aidan O’Dowd (Blacks and Whites), Cathal Kenny (Barrow Rangers), Paul Murphy (Blacks and Whites), Nickey Cleere (Bennettsbridge), Seoirse Kenny (St Patrick’s), Graham Lawlor (Cloneen), Rory Hickey (Lisdowney), Bill Staunton (St Patrick’s), Cathal English (Barrow Rangers). Subs - Niall Kennedy (Blacks and Whites), Eddie Hickey (Lisdowney), Ciaran Mackey (Lisdowney), Martin Bambrick (Barrow Rangers), Peter Bergin (Lisdowney).
South - Richie O’Neill (Kilmacow), Vincent Landy (Windgap), Brian Murphy (Thomastown), Ross Kelly (Slieverue), Luke Harney (Kilmacow), Philip Lonergan (Windgap), Conor Lonergan (Windgap), Martin Power (Piltown), Derek Lanigan (Thomastown), Jonjo Farrell (Thomastown), Nickey Kenny (Piltown), Stuart Waugh (Thomastown), Philip Kenny (Piltown), Johnny Hayes (Kilmacow), Richie McNamara (Kilmacow). Subs - Dylan Walsh (Thomastown), James Norris (Piltown), Cian Tyler (Slieverue), Paul Rockett (Slieverue), Martin Dowling (Slieverue).
Referee - Dominic Connolly (Mooncoin).