Last-gasp Ruth tips the scales in real thriller
Thurles Sarsfields 2-20
Sarsfields 2-15 Jackie Cahill
MUNSTER CLUB SHC SEMI-FINAL
SUPERSUB Richie Ruth netted in the first minute of stoppage-time at Semple Stadium to send Tipperary champions Thurles Sarsfields through to the provincial final for the second time in three seasons.
Ruth's strike settled a gripping semi-final with Cork kingpins Sarsfields to keep Thurles on track for their first Munster crown. They will meet Waterford's De La Salle on November 25 in a repeat of the 2010 decider.
Thurles could yet look back on Ruth's priceless goal as the key moment in their 2012 season, and possibly beyond.
The visitors trailed by six points with 12 minutes remaining, but Eoin Quigley's 49th-minute goal revived the visiting challenge and, when Cian McCarthy fired over two late frees, the sides were level at 2-15 to 1-18 heading into stoppage-time.
The crowd of 2,934 were looking at extra-time, but Ruth would have a crucial say, collecting a handpass from Michael Cahill before flashing home a brilliant goal at the Town End.
County final Man of the Match Aidan McCormack clipped over his fifth point from play before 35-year-old Johnny Enright, who was superb at midfield, put the icing on the Thurles cake with time almost up.
Once again, Thurles came through a huge battle, having claimed a hard-fought victory against Kilmallock on Limerick soil at the quarter-final stage.
And when they needed them most, the marquee names on the Thurles side came up with big moments.
Lar Corbett cracked home a magnificent first-half goal and after a difficult couple of months, perhaps the 2010 All-Ireland final hat-trick hero may be rediscovering some top form.
Corbett hit 1-1 in the first half and worked tirelessly but the key forwards for Thurles were Pa Bourke, who hit five of his seven points from play, and McCormack, who also hit five points from play.
For Cork's Sarsfields, McCarthy finished as leading scorer with eight points, seven of those from placed balls.
Wexford star Quigley scored a goal in each half while towering full-forward Michael Cussen got little change from a rock-solid Thurles full-back line.
Sarsfields boss Pat Ryan felt that Cussen received little or no protection from referee Michael Wadding.
Ryan said: "I think sometimes when you have a lot of inter-county players on your team, you get a lot of frees. I don't think we got that.
"Michael Cussen was winning ball and there were fellas hanging off him and he couldn't get any free. But if you touched Padraic Maher, he was down and they got a free. He's a super player but I think that's the way some things go."
At half-time, Thurles led by 1-11 to 1-8 following a high-scoring and hugely entertaining first half.
The Cork side led by 0-3 to 0-2 in the early stages before Corbett lit up a gloomy Semple Stadium with a quite brilliant goal in the seventh minute.
The 2010 Hurler of the Year, scorer of 1-2 against Kilmallock, fetched an Enright clearance at midfield and ran a straight line some 60 yards through the heart of the opposition's defence before unleashing an unstoppable shot past Alan Kennedy.
Thurles were almost in for a second goal four minutes later but Kennedy tipped Bourke's shot over the crossbar.
And the Rebel represetnatives hit back with a goal in the 12th minute, finished at the second attempt by Quigley. It appeared the visitors had weathered the storm when McCarthy and Gavin O'Loughlin popped over points for the Cork champions to open up a 1-6 to 1-4 lead with 17 minutes on the watch.
But they wouldn't score again for 14 minutes and in that time Thurles reeled off seven unanswered points to establish a five-point advantage, 1-11 to 1-6.
Bourke and McCormack were finding space to good effect, latching onto excellent deliveries from the middle third to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
The Cork side ended their barren period on the scoreboard with a McCarthy '65' in the first minute of stoppage-time at the end of the half, after Thurles goalkeeper Patrick McCormack had somehow managed to divert Ronan Murphy's shot wide.
Before the break, Quigley added a point to his earlier goal and despite falling away for a huge chunk of the first half, Ryan's charges were still in touch at the break.
Thurles pulled away again after the break, but their opponents battled back to draw level, only for Ruth to have the final say.
Scorers -- Thurles Sarsfields: P Bourke 0-7 (2f), A McCormack 0-5, L Corbett 1-1, J Enright 0-4 (3f), R Ruth 1-0, M Gleeson, M O'Brien, G O'Grady 0-1 each. Sarsfields: C McCarthy 0-8 (6f, 1 '65), E Quigley 2-1, G O'Loughlin, R Murphy 0-2 each, D Roche, T Óg Murphy 0-1 each.
THURLES SARSFIELDS -- P McCormack; S Maher, K O'Gorman, David Maher; D Kennedy, P Maher, M Cahill; M Gleeson, J Enright; P Bourke, J Corbett, L Corbett; M O'Brien, Denis Maher, A McCormack. Subs: R Ruth for J Corbett (41), J Maher for Gleeson (inj, 41), G O'Grady for J Maher (51), S Cahill for O'Brien (60+3).
SARSFIELDS -- A Kennedy; D Kenneally, J Barry, C O'Sullivan; D Kearney, R Ryan, C Leahy; T Óg Murphy, E Quigley; G O'Loughlin, R Murphy, D Roche; R O'Driscoll, M Cussen, C McCarthy. Subs: E O'Sullivan for D Kearney (h-t), K Murphy for O'Driscoll (38), G O'Kelly-Lynch for Leahy (53), W Kearney for R Murphy (58).
Ref -- M Wadding (Waterford)