Shamrocks in the final

Celebration time! Loughgiel manager PJ O'Mullan and full-forward Joey Scullion celebrate their team's victory. INBM 07-378CS

Celebration time! Loughgiel manager PJ O'Mullan and full-forward Joey Scullion celebrate their team's victory. INBM 07-378CS

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AIB All Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship

Loughgiel 0-27 Na Piarsaigh (Munster Champions) 2-13 AET

Man of the match Liam Watson scored sixteen superb points as Loughgiel Shamrocks beat Limerick and Munster champions Na Piarsaigh after extra time in Saturday’s thrilling AIB All Ireland Club semi-final at Parnell Park.

In a classic encounter the Antrim champions appeared to have the game won when they went five points clear nearing the end of normal time.

However Na Piarsaigh hit back and boosted by a an injury-time goal by substitute Robert Sheehan they drew level in the dying seconds with a Kevin Downes point to bring the game to extra time.

The large Loughgiel following must have felt their heroes were in danger of throwing their chance away after dominating the game for so long. However the team came out for extra time more determined than ever and absolutely blitzed the Limerick champions by 9 points to 1 during that period to book a final spot against Offaly and Leinster champions Coolderry in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.

DOMINATED

Loughgiel dominated the first-half of the game and were only headed on three occasions early on. Watson showed his radar was working perfectly from the start when he sent over a ‘65’ from out on the stand sideline and there was little to choose between the sides through the opening quarter.

However Loughgiel Shamrocks were growing in confidence and when Watson split the uprights from a free from inside his own half you could feel the red tide rising.

They were cruising at six points clear nearing the end of the first half only to be pegged back just before the short whistle when Na Piarsaigh centre-forward David Breen, who had looked dangerous all day, soloed through to fire the ball past DD Quinn in the Loughgiel goal.

UNDETERRED

Undeterred Loughgiel soon picked up the pace again in the second-half and with Watson again leading the line they regained the upper-hand and seemed set for victory until the Munster champions’ late surge brought the game to extra-time.

Parnell Park has not been a happy hunting ground for Antrim teams over the years in this competition with Dunloy (twice), Cushendall (twice), Rossa and Loughgiel themselves all ending on the losing side in semi-finals, and as a crestfallen Shamrocks side trooped off the pitch at the end of normal time there were those who must have thought that the hoodoo was about to strike again.

Those fears were soon dispelled however as the Ulster champions totally dominated this twenty minute spell.

They led by 0-21 to 2-13 at the end of the first period before tearing the Limerick men apart in the second session with six unanswered points to put the seal on a remarkable 0-27 to 2-13 win.

Though Watson will grab the headlines, and rightly so, this was first and foremost a team effort with every man in red doing their club proud.

Goalkeeper DD Quinn pulled off a couple of great saves, Ding Gillan, Ronan McCloskey and Martin Scullion were outstanding in defence while Declan Laverty, Eddie McCloskey, Joey Scullion, Benny McCarry and the peerless Watson were superb up front.

It will take a few days to get their feet back on the ground after such a win but the wise heads around them will soon get minds focused again as they go in search of the club’s second All Ireland title in five weeks time.

Loughgiel: DD Quinn; P Gillan, N McGarry, R McCloskey; J Campbell, M Scullion, J Campbell; B McAuley, M McFadden (0-1); L Watson (0-16), D Laverty (0-2), E McCloskey (0-3); B McCarry (0-2), J Scullion (0-3), S Casey. Subs: D McCloskey for Laverty, T McCloskey for McFadden, D Laverty for Casey.

Na Piarsaigh: P Kennedy; D Lynch, K Breen, K Bermingham; A Dempsey, J O’Brien, B Hartnett; C King (0-1), P Gleeson (0-1); S Dowling (0-6), D Breen (1-2), S O’Neill (0-1); K Kennedy, K Downes (0-1), K Ryan. Subs: A Breen (0-1), K Breen, J Madden for Gleeson, R Sheehan (1-0) for O’Neill.

See Hurling Special, pages 48-50