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Evan Niland of Galway celebrates scoring his side's third goal as Aaron Maddock of Wexford looks ON dejected during the Bord Gais Energy Leinster Under 21 Hurling Final.
Evan Niland of Galway celebrates scoring his side's third goal as Aaron Maddock of Wexford looks ON dejected during the Bord Gais Energy Leinster Under 21 Hurling Final.

Galway pip Wexford in thrilling BGE Leinster U-21 Hurling Final

Bord Gáis Energy Leinster U-21 Hurling Final

GALWAY 4-21 WEXFORD 2-26 (after extra-time)

By John Fallon

Galway came from behind to capture their first Leinster U-21 hurling crown when they edged out Wexford in a gripping final at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.

The hero for Galway was full-forward Sean Bleahane who scored a goal in injury-time at the end of the second period of extra-time, having come back on as a sub.

There could not have been a more dramatic way for Galway to crown their first appearance in the Leinster championship at the end of a thriller.

Galway looked set for victory when they led by three points deep into stoppage time of normal time but wing-back Ian Carthy found the net for Wexford to force extra-time.

Galway led by six points at one stage in the opening half but still went in trailing by two after Wexford staged a brilliant second quarter display.

The tempo of the match was frenetic from the outset and by the seventh minute Galway led by 0-6 to 0-3 in a blistering period which produced neither a free nor a wide to either side.

Brian Concannon (two), Kevin Cooney, Tomas Monaghan, Cianan Fahy and Sean Loftus found the target for the Tribesmen in that superb start.

But Wexford hit back with senior star Rory O’Connor getting a fine point either side of efforts from midfielder Garry Molloy and corner-forward Seamus Casey.

Casey’s first free of the evening cut the gap to 0-6 to 0-4 before Galway pulled away again with a point from Evan Niland and a goal after a run in from the right by midfielder Monaghan.

That put them 1-7 to 0-4 in front after just twelve minutes but they only managed one more point from there to the break on an evening with little wind in Portlaoise.

Wexford took over. Casey and O’Connor hit good scores and when Fahy grabbed his second for Galway to lead by 1-8 to 0-6 after 16 minutes, few in the crowd envisaged they wouldn’t score again in the opening half.

Wexford hit seven points without replay with Casey and O’Connor leading the way and it took a superb double save from Galway goalkeeper Eanna Murphy to deny Liam Stafford and Rory Higgins a goal after 19 minutes.

Evan Niland pulled back a point for Galway after the restart but Wexford hit the next three from Joe O’Connor, Stephen O’Gorman and Rory O’Connor and would have been further ahead had Galway goalkeeper Murphy not saved a penalty from Casey.

Galway rallied with a couple of frees from Niland and a good effort from Monaghan but then Casey soloed through and blasted to the net to help Wexford lead by 1-17 to 1-12 going into the final quarter.

But then Galway got hope when Cooney scored a goal from ab acute angle after 47 minutes and inside a minute Niland flicked home their third goal and Cooney pointed to suddenly lead by 3-13 to 1-17.

Galway lost corner-back Shane Bannon to a second yellow card and Casey hit back with a free for Wexford before Fintan Burke responded for Galway.

Another free from Casey left just one between them with two minutes left but Galway pushed it out to three before Ian Carthy rescued Wexford with an equalising goal in the sixth minute of stoppage time to force extra-time on a scoreline of 3-17 for Galway and 2-20 for Wexford.

Wexford by 2-24 to 3-18 at the break in extra-time and looked set for victory until Bleahane popped up in the dying seconds to secure the title in the most dramatic fashion possible.

Scorers for Galway: Evan Niland 1-7 (7f), Tomas Monaghan 1-2, Kevin Cooney 1-2, Cianan Fahy 0-5 (1’65, 1f), Sean Bleahene 1-0, Brian Concannon 0-2, Sean Loftus 0-1, Fintan Burke 0-1, Conor Caulfield 0-1

Scorers for Wexford: Seamus Casey 1-11 (9f), Rory O’Connor 0-7 (2f), Ian Carthy 1-0, Stephen O’Gorman 0-2, Rowan White 0-2, Joe O’Connor 0-2, Garry Molloy 0-1, Rory Higgins 0-1

GALWAY: Eanna Murphy; Ian O’Shea, Jack Fitzpatrick, Shane Bannon; Jack Grealish, Fintan Burke (c), Mark Hughes; Tomás Monaghan, Sean Loftus; Brian Concannon, Cian Salmon, Cianan Fahy; Evan Niland, Sean Bleahene, Kevin Cooney.

Subs: Patrick Foley for Salmon (half-time), Conor Caulfield for Hughes (41), Jack Canning for Bleahene (42), Ciaran Connor for Bannon (60), Ronan Murphy for Concannon (66), Michael Lynch for Monaghan (75), Sean Bleahene for Niland (77).

WEXFORD: Jack Cushe; Shane Reck, Darren Byrne, Ian Carthy; Aaron Maddock, Damien Reck, Garry Molloy; Conor Firman (c), Rowan White; Joe O’Connor, Rory O’Connor, Liam Stafford; Stephen O’Gorman, Rory Higgins, Seamus Casey.

Subs: Mikey Dwyer for O’Gorman (52), Oisin Foley for Stafford (52), Darren Codd for White (56), Stephen O’Gorman for Casey (66).

Referee: John O’Brien (Laois).

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