The Clean Ireland Recycling County Minor A Hurling Final ended in controversy on Sunday last in Semple Stadium when a ‘dry ball’ was brought into the mix for the last puck of the game as Holycross Ballychaill prepared to take a penalty, while a point in arrears.
The magnificent contest seemed destined for a replay after referee Paddy Ivors (Ballingarry) spread his arms wide and pointed towards the Killinan end for a Holycross Ballycahill penalty after centre forward Ciaran Maher had been felled as he advanced on goal. Question was - should freetaker Jamie Woods take his point and force a replay, or go for broke?
It was the topic of discussion in most sections of Ardan Ui Riain amongst the 2,318 in attendance, but not for long. Suddenly the referee indicated that the ball would be thrown in and as confusion reigned in the stands and amongst some players, the chance of a leveller was gone for the mid champions. The final whistle blew and Nenagh Eire Og had successfully defended their crown for the third time in thier history.
Holycross Ballychaill had attempted to bring in a dry sliothar for the free to be taken and having spotted the move, the official took maximum sancation. It was a cruel end to an absoring contest and the decision left as many answers questions as it did questions answered. Should the penalty have stood with the original ball used, and the mentor sanctioned rather then the team? It didn’t matter - the decision was taken and as Nenagh Eire Og celebrated wildy, Holycross Ballycahill, waiting for their first title in 31 years, lay crestfallen on the Semple Stadium sod. Their dreams had turned into the cruelest of nightmares and their great work in a very physical, uncompromising, but extremely sporting contest had counted for nothing. Nenagh Eire Og had battled back on a number of occasions and were just able to find goals which helped sink the side they defeated in last years semi-final en-route to capturing the silverware.
The margin of victory was to be the same as the senior and intermediate finals a week previously in the same venue, and half the margin in the B final between Ballina and Emly Treacy’s. Yes, Semple Stadium has played host to some great county finals this season and while the quality of the fare goes little distance to easing the pain of the defeated sides, it goes some way towards restoring faith in the current bruised Tipp hurling psyche.