Kilkenny & District League .......2
Tipp Southern & District League ..................................................1
KING BY name, King by nature.
Ross King continued the Kilkenny Youth team’s great run of results when he grabbed the goal that helped the Cats maintain their 100% record.
Only introduced as a 70th minute sub, King grabbed the injury-time winner that ensured Kilkenny topped their inter-league group and booked a home draw with Donegal in the knockout stages.
Thanks to a superior goal difference Ronnie Grace’s side needed just one point to guarantee pole position. However, they entered the final stages as winners, as King’s 90th minute strike stunned the hosts at a blustery Clonmel on Saturday.
With time ticking away the Cats could have settled for a draw. However, no-one told that to Mark Lyons and Chris Valentine. The midfield duo drove at Tipp, working the ball in behind the Tipp defence.
Lyons found room in the corner to fire over a cross, which King had no right to win. The striker did just that though, controlling the ball and then poking a speedy shot that flew in off the left post.
Kilkenny started in whirlwind fashion, ironically, against a ridiculously strong breeze. Seconds after the kick-off they were almost in front, as Chris Valentine got on end of Enda Purcell’s flick-on, but the winger stabbed his shot off an upright.
Tipperary were unsettled from the off, their defensive frailty almost costing them again after just seven minutes.
This time full-back Andy Hickey carved Tipp wide open with a cutting pass, which was inch-perfect for Sean Maguire, but the striker lost his footing when he seemed certain to go on and score.
Kilkenny kept the pressure on, and got their reward just two minutes later. Sean Maguire played his part, knocking down a deep free right into the path of McQuillan who, from the edge of the box, drilled a crisp half-volley that flew inside the right post.
While Tipp offered little in attack, Kilkenny never let up. Maguire had another chance when sent on his way by Enda Purcell’s excellent 21st minute ball, but his shot was well stopped by the outstretched foot of keeper Cianan O’Sullivan. The rebound came back to Maguire, but he crashed his second attempt into the side netting.
The visitors continued to force the pace. Andy Hickey provided a teasing 30th minute cross after a great surge up the flank, but there was no-one in the centre to capitalise.
In what was a good first half for the visitors, Kilkenny went close to doubling their tally just seconds before the interval. Following a Hickey corner, which swung across goal, Conor Gorey did well to steer a low shot towards the far post, but the ball struck a leg in a sea of players and somehow stayed out. Kilkenny tried to pick up where they had left off, but a lapse in concentration allowed Tipp to get back into the game.
There was no real danger when defender Jason Power launched a long ball downfield after 55 minutes, but rather than let his defence deal with it goalkeeper Craig Cummins came way off his line.
It proved a bad move; as the netminder sent striker Ross Condon tumbling. Tipp saw the chance and took it, Levi Whelan making no mistake when he stuck the resulting penalty away.
The goal gave Tipp a new impetus, but for all their attacking efforts they couldn’t find a winner.
Kilkenny, it seemed, were content to settle for a point, but almost went in front again when King picked up fellow sub Ian McLoughlin’s quick 85th minute throw-in and brought a fine save from ’keeper O’Sullivan.
That was close – but King saved his best strike for last.
Kilkenny & DL: Craig Cummins, Sammy Johnson, Andy Hickey (Martin Doyle, 64 mins), Robert Skehan, Lee Delaney, Mark Lyons, Chris Valentine, Declan McQuillan, Sean Maguire, Enda Purcell (Ian McLoughlin, 79 mins), Conor Gorey (Ross King, 70 mins).
TSDL: Cianan O’Sullivan, Kenneth Condon (John O’Donnell, 82 mins), Jason Hahessy, Levi Whelan, James Power, Colin Nugent, Conor Acheson, Caolan O’Gorman, Ross Condon, David Grace (John Carew, 56 mins), Aidan McGrath (Christy Burke, 46 mins).
Referee: Tom Keating. Linesmen: Nicky Coughlan, Michael Cody (TSDL).