Fr O'Neill's hurlers are pipped at the post after an epic clash with Tulloroan 

Fr O'Neill's hurlers are pipped at the post after an epic clash with Tulloroan 
Tullaroan captain Shane Walsh scores the winning point in injury time as Thomas Millerick of Fr. O'Neill's closes him down. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tullaroan 3-19 Fr O’Neill’s 5-12

IN the month of January, who would have imagined this, a hurling extravaganza between two teams who played themselves to a standstill in an absolutely enthralling All-Ireland Intermediate club final.

And at the last whistle never was the joy of victory and pain of defeat so graphically illustrated, Tullaroan the victors by a mere point in an eight-goal thriller.

Fr O’Neill’s might have lost on the scoreboard but, in truth, they lost nothing here, their pride, their dignity and everything else that accompanies great days like this still firmly intact.

They were heroic in defeat but that is probably going to be poor consolation to the gallant players on duty in Croke Park on Saturday.

Jack Keoghan of Tullaroan in action against Eoin Conway of Fr O'Neill's. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Jack Keoghan of Tullaroan in action against Eoin Conway of Fr O'Neill's. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

They had to line out with key players, Mark O’Keeffe and Billy Dunne after all the avenues to having their suspensions lifted were closed off.

It wasn’t until the fourth minute of stoppage time was it sorted, the winning score delivered sublimely by Tullaroan by star player Shane Walsh.

It will be even more galling for Fr O’Neill’s to have scored five goals in an All-Ireland final and still be on the losing side.

This was a see-saw battle all through, particularly in the second half when one team appeared to have won, lost it and winning it again.

O’Neill’s got off to the best of starts, 1-4 to 0-1 ahead after 17 minutes and, by far, the better side.

Deccie Dalton banged home the goal after wonderful support play from veteran Eoin Conway and Paudie McMahon.

The warrior Conway ended the game with 1-2 before he went off to thunderous applause in the 49th minute.

The last 10 minutes of the opening half belonged to Tullaroan, O’Neill’s having their earlier momentum halted and conceding two goals.

One of the Kilkenny stars, Martin Keoghan scored the first after being set up by another star, Peter Walsh with the latter delivering the second just before the break after a short O’Neill’s puck-out had gone astray.

Tullaroan led by a brace of points going in, 2-5 to 1-6 but it was still very delicately balanced.

You would require an entire chapter of a book to describe what transpired thereafter Conway smashing home an early O’Neill’s goal after a Dalton sideline.

After 41 minutes Tullaroan led by three points but Dalton subsequently scored one of the great Croke Park goals.

Shortly afterwards they had another goal, Cillian Broderick the executioner after being set-up by McMahon and they led by five points.

But then the pendulum swung in Tullaroan’s direction, 1-7 without reply, points from Shane, the outstanding Padraig, and Peter Walsh and John Walton with the goal coming from Keoghan again.

They now led by five points but this O’Neill’s team never dies.

Kevin O’Sullivan superbly struck over a couple of points and sub Jason Hankard pilfered another goal.

Yet another sub Sean O’Connor rifled over another point to make it a point game with time ebbing away quickly Padraigh Walsh pointed a Tullaroan 65 which Tom Millerick cancelled out.

And then it was level, the excellent McMahon equalising in stoppage time for O’Neill’s, the three minutes that went up on the board.

It was breathtaking stuff and extra-time seemed a certainty before somehow the Kilkenny men manufactured a point with virtually the last act of the game from Shane Walsh.

There was no time for another O’Neill’s salvation mission, it was all over and the near five and a half thousand attendees could hardly believe what they had witnessed.

What joy for Tullaroan, what sorrow for O’Neill’s but to pen the well worn cliche, hurling was the only winner here. Fair play to Tullaroan, there wasn’t a foul stroke in the entire game and O’Neill’s made a gargantuan contribution. Not one player in their jersey could be faulted, they died here, every one of them with their boots on.

Truly a game for the ages .

Scorers for Tullaroan: S Walsh (0-9, 0-4 frees), M Keoghan (2-1), Peter Walsh (1-2), Padraig Walsh (0-1 65), J Walton and T Walsh (0-2 each), B Gaffney (0-1).

Scorers for Fr O’Neill’s: D Dalton (2-4, 0-2 frees, 0-1 65), E Conway (1-2), C Broderick and J Hankard (1-0 each), P McMahon and K O’Sullivan (0-2 each), T Millerick and S O’Connor (0-1 each).

TULLAROAN : P Buggy; D Doheny, Tommy Walsh (Village), S Maher; Martin Walsh, Padraig Walsh, J Keoghan; T Dunne, Mark Walsh; B Gaffney, M Keoghan, J Walton; Peter Walsh, Tommy Walsh (Mountgale), S Walsh (Capt).

Subs: K Coogan for T Dunne (39), A Tallis for M Walsh (44).

FR O’NEILL’S: C Sloane; M Millerick, P Butler, G Millerick; J Barry, D Harrington (Capt), T Millerick; J Millerick, K O’Sullivan; L O’Driscoll, R Cullinane, P McMahon; E Conway, D Dalton, C Broderick.

Subs: J Hankard for E Conway (50), S O’Connor for J Barry (54), E Motherway for C Broderick (57).

Referee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford).

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