Loughgiel Shamrocks returned to Antrim as All-Ireland club hurling champions but Crossmaglen and Garrycastle will have to go again.
Star of the show in the hurling was Loughgiel’s Liam Watson. He scored a scarcely believable 3-7 as the Ulster champions beat Coolderry of Offaly 4-17 to 0-17. The Leinster champions only scored one point more as a team than Watson did on his own.
It took the brilliant Watson just 11 minutes to get his hat-trick and with that phenomenal burst the game was up for Coolderry. The Offaly men had led early on but a Shay Casey goal put Loughgiel in front after five minutes and then Watson took over.
His first goal was after 19 minutes, he added his second via bullet 20-metre free on 28 minutes and just two minutes later a sublime flick deceived Stephen Corcoran in the Coolderry net.
The half-time score was 4-6 to 0-9 to the eventual winners and while Coolderry battled on, they had too much of a mountain to climb and the men from the Glen won at a canter in the end, snapping a 29-year gap between All-Ireland titles.
But we will have to try again to decide the destination of the football crown for 2012.
It looked like Crossmaglen were doomed but their fighting spirit, for the umpteenth time in the club’s history, carried them through, salvaging a draw, 0-15 to 1-12,when they looked doomed to fail at last. Without captain Stephen Kernan through suspension, they should have been without Paul Dillon after just five minutes but his headbutt somehow only merited a yellow.
For long periods of the game, there looked to be only one winner. Garrycastle, with Dessie Dolan in fine form, took the lead early and nearly held it all the way. A Paddy Mulvihill goal midway through the first half gave the Leinster champions a 1-6 to 0-5 lead and despite the best efforts of Oisin McConcville and Jamie Clarke, Garrycastle led at the break by four, 1-8 to 0-7
After the break it was more of the same, with Garrycastle’s lead stretching to five points with just 15 to go, 1-10 to 0-8. But then the game went a bit crazy. Both sides had a man sent off, (Paul Kernan for Cross’, Tom McHugh for Garrycastle) somewhat harshly for harmless second yellows. Then Clarke hit a post when a goal looked on and suddenly the Cross’ machine clicked into gear.
In a flash the Rangers were ahead, 1-10 to 0-13. A Dolan free levelled it again, setting up a thrilling grandstand finish. The teams traded scores in a frantic final period and it looked like Cross’ would prevent a replay and win a sixth title when Clarke was sent straight through but his punched effort slipped just wide.
To be honest, another 60 minutes like that is very much welcome. What a game.