It’s not just soccer that’s a funny old game - sometimes hurling can throw up a couple of eye-raising moments as well!
Mullinavat made sure their weekend ended on a high note as they fought back from the brink of obliteration to snatch the unlikeliest of intermediate hurling league wins.
How unlikely was it? At half-time in Tom Ryall Park the ’Vat trailed a seemingly unstoppable Emeralds by 12 points (3-10 to 1-4).
While little went right for the South Kilkenny side in the beginning on Sunday evening they made sure of the spoils with a dream-like ending, nabbing 2-2 in the closing stages.
The comeback to end all comebacks started when Michael Murphy’s 53rd minute free left the ’Vat six points behind. Sixty seconds later the gap was halved, Mark Mansfield drilling home a penalty after Ger Malone had been dragged back in the square.
Left with a three-point deficit to make up, there was a clear way back into the game for the ’Vat. Piling on the pressure, they got their chance when John Walsh seized on a Joe Gahan delivery in the first minute of injury-time.
Soloing through, Walsh’s path to the posts was blocked by advancing netminder Shane Moriarty. Walsh waited for the ’keeper to make his move, then clipped a low shot that rolled - in what seemed like slow-motion - into the Emeralds net.
Incredible as Mullinavat’s comeback was, the way the Emeralds charge stalled (they only scored 1-2 in the second half) was just as unlikely.
The North Kilkenny side owned the game in the first half, fizzing about the field with classy performances from Padraig Phelan, Pa Doheny and Alan Guilfoyle.
Taking control from the off they were 1-5 to 0-0 up after 11 minutes, the lively Aidan Fogarty raising the green flag from close range after an unselfish hand-pass from Brian Campion.
The gap could have been greater, especially after Pa Doheny drilled a 12th minute penalty towards the net following a foul on Brian Campion, but Mullinavat survived thanks to corner-back Tony Duggan’s stop on the line.
That seemed a small consolation, as Mullinavat were soon left facing a 13-point gap. Doheny did the damage, tearing through and unleashing a searing shot that James Culleton couldn’t keep out (2-9 to 0-2).
The scores began to flow the other way for a spell after that, Gahan goaling after claiming Brian Phelan’s deep clearance. That left the ’Vat with 1-4 to their name but once Fogarty netted his second goal, reaching over Duggan to flick a Francis Clohessey cross past Culleton, it looked like the Southerners were chasing a lost cause.
Emeralds were coasting now, Doheny piling on the misery with another pointed free to leave a 12-point chasm between the teams at the break (3-10 to 1-4).
Mullinavat did raise their flagging spirits after the restart, John Walsh grabbing a quick 1-1 to leave a better complexion on the scoreboard, but they looked destined for defeat when Guilfoyle landed a haymaker in the 42nd minute.
Padraig Phelan was the provider, lofting a sideline cut towards the posts. Guilfoyle did the rest, lifting the sliotar before firing an unstoppable shot inside the left post.
At that stage the Urlingford men had a 10-point lead (4-10 to 2-6). It seemed like that would be enough to guarantee victory but Mullinavat weren’t finished yet.
A Ger Malone point offered a solid reply to Guilfoyle’s goal, but Mark Mansfield’s well-struck free was better - he rattled the net after sub Andrew McGovern was hauled down in the 45th minute.
Points from Derek Lyng and Conor Martin saw Emeralds stretch their lead (4-12 to 3-8), but the ’Vat were about to hit that purple patch.
Even after that late Walsh goal left the sides on level terms there was still time for the ’Vat to send their opponents home empty-handed. Team captain Murphy did the damage, coolly converting a free deep into stoppage time to seal a memorable win.
Scorers: Mullinavat - Mark Mansfield (2-1, 1-0 pen, 1-0 free), John Walsh (2-1), Joe Gahan (1-1), Michael Murphy (0-3, 0-2 free), Willie O’Dwyer (0-2, 0-1 free), Ger Malone (0-2). Emeralds - Aidan Fogarty (2-1); Pa Doheny (1-3, 0-2 frees); Alan Guilfoyle (1-2); Padraig Phelan, Derek Lyng (0-2 each); Conor Martin, Brian Campion (0-1 each).
Mullinavat - J. Culleton, T. Duggan, S. Farrell, L. Murphy, B. Phelan, W. Burke, P. Raftice, M. Mansfield, D. Butler, J. Gahan, P. Mulhearn, G. Malone, M. Murphy, W. O’Dwyer, J. Walsh. Sub: A. McGovern for Mulhearn, 40 mins.
Emeralds - S. Moriarty, T. Moriarty, D. Fitzgerald, J. Ryan, E. Moriarty, B. Troy, S. Norton, P. Phelan, F. Clohessey, D. Lyng, C. Martin, P. Doheny, A. Fogarty, A. Guilfoyle, B. Campion. Sub: J. Doheny for Clohessey, 60 mins.
Referee - P. Hayes (Graigue-Ballycallan).