An incredible comeback in an incredible game saw a determined Fort Rangers snatch the unlikeliest of wins in the FAI Junior Cup.
The Kilkenny side came from FOUR goals down and played a man short for 40 minutes as they stunned Gorey Rangers with a Jekyll and Hyde performance at Wallslough on Sunday morning.
Things looked really grim for the hosts when Gorey captain Joe Bolger converted a 56th minute penalty, sending Jim Nugent the wrong way from the spot. Gorey were now 5-1 up and seemingly cruising into the next round, leaving Fort with a crushing feeling that only grew as young striker Emmet Nugent limped out of the game.
With only two subs listed - and both already on the field - it looked like damage limitation for Fort. However, the resolution of the side was about to shine through.
“They have great heart,” a beaming Fort boss Jim Cashin said at the end of a remarkable game - who could argue with him?
It looked like merely a consolation when Fort captain Eddie Nugent got on the end of Richie Hogan’s great cross, stealing in behind Alan Molloy to volley a sidefoot shot inside the far post.
With just eight minutes of normal time left, it seemed to be too little too late - but the comeback was still on. Nugent gave his side another grain of hope of 85 minutes, firing a spot kick low and hard to the right after Tony Moran was upended in the box.
Suddenly, the flame was flickering. With Nugent driving his side on they almost pulled another goal back, the skipper squeezing an 87th minute shot past netminder Ayrton de Sousa but the ball came back off the far post.
Rangers refused to give up hope after that miss and were left breathing down Gorey’s necks when Nugent completed his hat-trick with a minute of normal time remaining.
Once more Richie Hogan was involved, threading a peach of a ball to the right side of the box. Nugent was on it in a flash, taking a touch before he was taken down by de Sousa.
Nugent got up to take the kick and once more made no mistake, hammering the ball down the middle.
Gorey were rattled by this stage, beginning to play down the clock as a rampant Fort pressed hard for the equaliser. The hosts went close, Nugent staying onside to collect Moran’s lofted pass but he dragged his injury-time shot across the posts.
At that stage it looked like Fort’s last chance was gone. However, there was still time for one more roll of the dice.
With the game in the second minute of additional time, Fort flattened Gorey. Once more Hogan was involved, delivering a teasing ball over the back four for Nugent to race on to. The captain showed great bravery, getting sandwiched between the backtracking Alan Molloy and the advancing de Sousa but he stayed brave, getting his foot to the ball to poke it goalwards. The ball seemed to roll for an eternity - at least as Fort were concerned - before it finally went over the line.
Such a comeback seemed a distant possibility given the way Gorey took control in the opening half.
With Adam Terrett and Mark Kinsella doing most of the damage Gorey used some neat one-touch football to punish Fort. It took them 27 minutes to make it count, Stephen Kinsella whipping in a wicked ball from the right for Terrett to tuck home.
Despite going a goal down Fort were still in the game. Emmet Nugent brought a good save from de Sousa before brother Eddie went even closer, showing great feet to kill a long ball dead on the edge of the box, but his 29th minute strike was pushed out for a corner.
It looked like one goal might be all that Gorey took into half-time, but disaster struck in the closing stages. The Wexford men made it 2-0 on 41 minutes, Joe Bolger releasing a quick ball for Terrett to latch on to and crash into the top right corner of the net.
Two minutes later they made it 3-0, Kinsella finishing a Fionn Doyle cross from close range after the Fort defence stood off for too long.
Gorey picked up where they left off in the second half, grabbing their third goal in six minutes of football. Mark Kinsella did the damage again, committing the challenge from Paddy Hogan before using the space to rattle a low shot inside the near post.
Fort were facing a mountain to climb, but gained a crumb of comfort soon after. Liam Forristal grabbed a cracker of a goal with 49 minutes on the clock, thundering a 25-yarder home off the underside of the bar, but it looked like counting for nothing when Bolger netted that 56th minute penalty.
How the game changed in the final quarter, as four goals in little over nine minutes saw a Hogan and Nugent-inspired Fort complete an amazing comeback. Gorey were rocked by that and seemed content to play for penalties - but even they went against the visitors.
There was nothing to separate the sides when it came to the early spot kicks - Eddie Nugent, John Bambrick and Tony Moran netted Fort’s first three, Joe Bolger, Gary Murphy and Gerry Mulcahy doing the same for Gorey.
It was advantage Fort when Liam Forristal fired his kick high into the top left corner, but Gorey couldn’t reply as Alan Molloy crashed his kick off the base of the left post.
That left Padraig Murphy with the pressure kick. He made no mistake, coolly going low and to the left. Fort celebrated the Lazarus-like finish, leaving a shell-shocked Gorey to wonder what had just happened to them.
Fort Rangers: Jim Nugent, John Bambrick, Seamus McGrath (Richie Hogan, 46 mins), Padraig Murphy, Paddy Hogan, Tony Moran, Liam Forristal, David Forristal, Eddie Nugent, Emmet Nugent, Stephen McKenna (Dion Fitzpatrick, 67 mins).
Gorey Rangers: Ayrton de Sousa, Mark Flanagan, Gerry Mulcahy, Stephen Kinsella (Jamie Howard, 76 mins), Alan Molloy, Kevin Kennedy, Conor Casserly, Joe Bolger, Adam Terrett (Gary Murphy, 67 mins), Fionn Doyle, Mark Kinsella (Mark Woods, 73 mins).
Referee: Tom Walsh.