A refusal to throw in the towel earned Tullogher-Rosbercon two valuable intermediate hurling league points and, with it, a place in the Shield final.
Daire McGrath was the toast of his club as his 60th minute point helped beat Thomastown in an intriguing Southern battle in Inistioge.
While the men in black and Amber were the ones cheering at the final whistle, Thomastown were distraught. They let the game slip through their fingers - they had forged big leads at different stages - but coughing up too many frees proved costly as they slipped into the relegation battle.
The big change for Tullogher came midway through the second half. Although they trailed by four points (2-10 to 0-12) a purple patch of five points, plundered in as many minutes, saw them drive into a position of authority.
Led by the spirited Walter Walsh and Cian O’Donaghue, Tullogher pushed high up the field as they stretched the ’Town defence. Walsh dashed down the left to bag a 41st minute point, then made an excellent catch to win possession before popping the sliotar off for O’Donaghue to split the posts.
The gap grew smaller when O’Donaghue chipped in with a pointed free, then vanished when Pat Hartley stormed out from the heart of defence to smash over a long range point.
That run gave Tullogher the heart to press on. A trip on Conor Hennessy provided O’Donaghue with the chance to edge his side ahead on 46 minutes. He didn’t miss.
That run was a real shock for Thomastown, who oozed class and confidence in the opening half. Helped by sterling performances from centre-back Barry Whelan, wing-back Craig Butler and midfielder Dessie Walsh they took the game by force, putting a vice-like grip on the middle third that Tullogher couldn’t break.
It helped too that Thomastown had forwards who made a real nuisance of themselves. Jonjo Farrell proved as much inside nine minutes, reaching up and over his man to snap up John Donnelly’s before palming it off for Danny Monks to drill the sliotar to the net.
The goal was a blow to Tullogher’s hopes but they kept themselves in the game. Thomastown slipped into a bad habit of conceding frees, all of which were punished by the accuracy of Cian O’Donaghue.
With their free-taker in fine form Tullogher were just a point behind after 23 minutes (1-6 to 0-8) but disaster struck when Dessie Walsh’s teasing delivery dropped into a huge pocket of space in front of the ’Town full-forward line. Monks did well to keep play alive before Farrell stormed into a cluster of players to seize possession. A quick pass found Robbie Donnelly, who had time to pick his spot in the net.
That goal would prove to be the difference between the teams at the break. O’Donaghue did pull a brace of points back, but Thomastown were three to the good at half-time (2-7 to 0-10).
The second half started as a battle of the sharpshooters, Robbie Donnelly trading frees with O’Donaghue, but another from play saw Donnelly edge his side into a four-point lead by the 40th minute.
At that stage it looked like Tullogher were in real trouble, but they gritted their teeth and battled back into the game. That run of five unanswered points did the trick, pushing them past their rivals, but the hard work wasn’t finished.
With the pace beginning to pick up, both sides settled in for a battle in the final quarter. Thomastown tried to force their way ahead again, Donnelly (free) and Farrell raising white flags but the control they had enjoyed in the first half had evaporated by then, Conceding more frees didn’t help - not with O’Donaghue enjoying a rich vein of form - while Walter Walsh also chipped in with a sweet point from the right flank.
With time almost up, the momentum Tullogher had been building finally paid out. Watching as Pat Hartley’s lengthy free dropped into a cluster of players, sub Daire McGrath pounced. He dashed in to win possession, then flew out twice as quick, sprinting down the left before splitting the posts with the match-winning point.
SCORERS: Tullogher-Rosbercon - Cian O’Donaghue (0-13, 0-11 frees); Conor Hennessy, Walter Walsh (0-2 each); Billy Ryan, Brendan Lawlor, Pat Hartley, Daire McGrath (0-1 each). Thomastown - Robbie Donnelly (1-7, 0-6 frees); Danny Monks (1-0); John Donnelly, Jonjo Farrell (0-2 each); Peter O’Hanrahan, Craig Butler, Adrian Burke (0-1 each).
Tullogher-Rosbercon - Martin Roche; John Hartley, John Cottterell, Sean Murray; Jason Shiely, Pat Hartley, Moling Cotterell; Tarek O’Connor, Liam Barron; Billy Ryan, Cian O’Donaghue, Walter Walsh; Edmund Cullinane, Conor Hennessy, Brendan Lawlor. Subs: Daire McGrath for Cullinane, 31 mins; Kevin Hennessy for Lawlor, 60 mins.
Thomastown - Paul Barron; Sean Mahony, James Burke, David Prendergast; Brian Murphy, Barry Whelan, Craig Butler; Dessie Walsh, Adrian Burke; Johnny Barron, Peter O’Hanrahan, John Donnelly; Danny Monks, Jonjo Farrell, Robbie Donnelly. Subs: Dylan Caulfield for Monks, 51 mins; Thomas O’Hanrahan for P. O’Hanrahan, 56 mins.
Referee - Ray Byrne (Glenmore).
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