Fitzgibbon stays cool to keep Ris hopes alive
JOHN Fitzgibbon converted a free in the fifth minute of stoppage-time to salvage a draw for Limerick outfit Ardscoil Ris at McDonagh Park, Nenagh, yesterday.
Fitzgibbon, a son of former Limerick player Shane, held his nerve to set up a replay against holders Thurles CBS, which has been fixed at the same venue next Saturday (3.0).
Fitzgibbon had to wait for over a minute after referee Sean Casey had awarded the free but drilled the ball over the bar from the left touchline.
Ardscoil Ris, appearing in their very first final, deserved at least a draw from a gripping decider, which was played out in front of 2,596 spectators.
They got off to a brilliant start as Kevin Downes netted in the seventh minute to open up a 1-4 to 0-1 lead, but Thurles called upon their vast reserves of experience to stay in touch.
And despite playing against a strong first-half breeze, the champions were just two points behind, 0-7 to 1-6, at half-time.
However, Thurles didn't manage a score from play until Michael O'Brien pointed 26 seconds after the restart to set the tone for a second half which was level on four occasions.
Captain Denis Maher was moved from centre-back to centre-forward early in the second half and that moved paid rich dividends as the Thurles Sarsfields player finished with 1-1. His goal, in the 41st minute, hauled Thurles level at 1-8 apiece.
A brace of frees from top scorer Declan Hannon pushed Ardscoil Ris two points clear but O'Brien and Pat Ralph responded with Thurles points to level proceedings once again.
Maher scored a hotly disputed point with nine minutes of normal time remaining to hand Thurles the lead as the umpires consulted with referee Casey before the score was finally awarded.
First-half goalscorer Downes responded with an equaliser for a dogged Ardscoil Ris before O'Brien fired Thurles ahead again.
Hannon missed a free in the first minute of stoppage-time and Ardscoil Ris believed their chance had gone, but Fitzgibbon had the final say to set up an eagerly awaited rematch.
Scorers -- Ardscoil Ris: D Hannon 0-7 (0-5f, 1 '65), K Downes 1-1, J Fitzgibbon 0-3 (0-3f), N Kennedy 0-1. Thurles CBS: M O'Brien 0-9 (0-8f), D Maher 1-1, P Ralph 0-2 (0-1f).
ARDSCOIL RIS -- PJ Hall; M Carmody, E McCarthy, A Dempsey; C McInerney, S Dowling, M Moroney; S O'Brien, N Kennedy; M Ryan, D Hannon, B O'Connor; J Fitzgibbon, K Downes, A Breen. Subs: J Shanahan for Fitzgibbon (27), Fitzgibbon for Ryan (43).
THURLES CBS -- A Stakelum; S Maher, C Carroll, J Bourke; C Barrett, D Maher, J Meagher; P Dunne, P Ralph; N O'Brien, P Looby, J Bergin; C Treacy, D Devane, M O'Brien. Subs: B Campion for Treacy (h/t), T Doyle for Devane (49).
Ref -- S Casey (Waterford).