A late drop goal from Standoff Simon Gillespie gave Barnhall Butchers an historic 25-24 victory over the Treaty City Titans in the 2014 All Ireland Championship Finals.
In their tenth year the Titans are Ireland’s most successful team and they were looking for their eight Grand Final win but the Butchers, who entered the league for the first time this year, had other ideas.
It took only three minutes for the scoring to open when Butchers winger Diarmuid Carr showed his pace with a break out wide. He was pulled down close to the try line but the Butchers made the most of the quick ball and prop Gareth Murray crashed over from close range to open the scoring.
The Titans responded well after conceding an early try and after back to back penalties got themselves into good field position. However, an uncharacteristic error from centre Lemeki Vaipulu meant they couldn’t capitalise on the Butchers indiscretions.
On the back of this turnover the Leinster Champions marched their way up field and full back Mark Kenny found a hole in the Titans defence and used his pace to touch down under the posts and double his sides lead with twenty six minutes on the clock.
Both sides arrived with powerful forward packs and for the remainder of the first half they tried to out muscle each other. Neither side were giving their opposition any space which was evident when first Titans scrum half Brendan Guilfoyle tried a chip and chase and then Butchers hooker Mikey Russell did the same.
Half time came with the Butchers looking comfortable with their twelve point lead but against the Titans they would have been aware a fight back was on the way.
It didn’t take long for the fight back to come when within a minute of the start of the second half the Titans made a break through the centre of the Butchers line and Mike Kelleher touched down to half the deficit.
Shortly after that the scores were level when a superb break down the right hand side form Ireland Student International Sean Hogan put Billy Noonan in under the posts.
The Titans were rolling and they soon went ahead when Vaipulu made up for his earlier mistake by cutting the Barnhall defence open and setting up Luke Malone to bring the score to 18-12.
A fourth try inside ten minutes from Cronan Gleeson would put the Titans firmly in the driver’s seat and they appeared to be cruising towards their eight All Ireland title.
However, the Butchers clawed their way back into the game and an inspirational grubber to himself saw Ben McCarthy touch down to bring his side back to within a score of the Limerick side.
Then a moment of madness from Carr saw him put in the sin bin for a stamp on a Titans player with Barnhall on the attack inside the Titans ten metre area. This put the Butchers fight back in jeopardy as they would be down to 12 men for a ten minute period.
To their credit the Butchers worked hard and managed to keep the Titans scoreless while Carr was off the pitch.
The final few minutes of the game were tense with the game in the balance and when Ireland A star Mikey Russell made an inspirational break to level things the tension grew.
With only moments left Barnhall drove down field and Gillespie would drop back into the pocket and grab the one pointer to put his side in the lead with just two minutes on the clock.
Barnhall looked to have sown the game up when they had possession inside Titans territory but an error gave the Limerick men a chance to break and they duly obliged making forty metres before a Butchers defender could put a stop to the play.
With that the final whistle came and the Butchers would be crown All Ireland Champions in their first season in the league and would also become the first team from outside Munster to win the final since the Carlow Crusaders in 2008.
While this superb match marked the end of the club season the action keeps coming when the revamped State of Origin between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland kicks off next Saturday.
Barnhall Butchers: Mark Kenny, Liam Grimes, Dewi Harrison, Conor Harding, Diarmuid Carr, Ben McCarthy, Simon Gillespie, Gareth Murray, Mikey Russell, TJ Renihan, Mark Ivers, Ben Harrison, Tom McKeown Interchange: Martin Furey, Matt Crehan, Sam Hall, Dave Ferguson, Padraig Beatty, Colm Mulkerrin
Treaty City Titans: Sean Hogan, Mike Kelleher, Lemeki Vaipulu, Mike O’Neill, Brendan Guilfoyle, Eoin Ryan, Mark O’Neill, Luke Malone, Ben Rowley, Aaron McCloskey, Tevita Toia, Cronan Gleeson, Interchange: Donnacha O’Grady, Tadhg McCloskey, Joe Reid, Ger Burke, Ronan Hogan, Billy Noonan, Cian Leahy
Match Officials: Steve Hogan (Referee), Jason Craughwell, Fiona McConn (Touch Judges) Paul Baxter (4th Official)
Niall Cantrell Man of the Match Award: Tom McKeown (Barnhall Butchers)
Half Time: Barnhall Butchers 12-0 Treaty City Titans
Full Time: Barnhall Butchers 25-24 Treaty City Titans