CALRY-ST Joseph's secured back-to-back Sligo Senior Hurling crowns thanks to a 2-16 to 1-11 victory over Coolera-Strandhill in the final at Markievicz Park on Sunday.
This latest success - Calry-St Joseph's fifth Championship triumph in six years - was undoubtedly deserved but their eight point winning margin was somewhat flattering ; with Darragh Cox's 59th minute goal and Kevin Gilmartin's sideline ball to the net in added-time giving a definite slant to the scoreboard in the defending title-holders favour.
Indeed, Coolera-Strandhill - despite enjoying more limited possession for the majority of this contest - only trailed by two points (0-16 to 1-11) as late as the 58th minute before those late threepointers from their opponents.
The defending champions dominated the middle-sector in the opening-half - with Coolera-Strandhill net minder, Kevin Kelly, visibly frustrated at his colleagues ability to win any of his puck-outs.
The net result was, by the 27th minute, a Keith Raymond inspired Calry-St Joseph's had built up an 0-10 to 0-6 lead - with the Sligo and Connacht interprovincial star registering some inspiring points from play with Kevin Gilmartin and Ronan Cox in close support.
Yet the reigning title-holders had also accumulated seven wides by that stage and, even with their restricted possession, Coolera-Strandhill were able to keep in relative touch through the terrific dead-ball accuracy of Niall Cadden.
Indeed, when Errol Flanagan was upended late in first-half added time, Gary Cadden fired home a penalty for Coolera-Strandhill and, incredibly given the possession stakes, the second-time finalists only trailed by a solitary point at the interval (0-10 1-6).
Moreover, when Coolera-Strandhill levelled through a further Cadden free two minutes into the second-half and then took the lead through Cadden's sixth free of the afternoon on 41 minutes, a first ever county title for the Seasiders seemed a mouthwatering but realistic prospect (1-8 to 0-10).
Calry-St Joseph's seemed to sense the immediate danger, however, with Raymond snapping over two long-range frees and Gilmartin adding a point to give their side a two-point advantage again by the 45th minute (0-13 to 1-8).
Raymond (points on 48 and 49 minutes) and Gilmartin (a terrific effort from half-way on 50 minutes) added to the defending champions tally but two Cadden frees (on 46 and 54 minutes) and a 52nd minute Niall O'Rourke point for Coolera-Strandhill meant there was still only two points between the sides as the clock ticked onto the 55 minute mark (016 to 11)
It was the Henry Cox / Stephen Whelan managed title-holders who closed out the game the stronger, however, with heavy legs seemingly preventing the Seasiders from mounting a match-saving salvo in those closing minutes.
Firstly, David Collery fed Darragh Cox who blasted home a 59th minute goal for Calry-St Josephs that, effectively, ensured the retention of their crown before, two minutes into added-time, Gilmartin's sideline cut arrowed past Coolera-Strandhill goalkeeper, Kevin Kelly, for a second goal for the defending champions (2-16 to 1-11 at the end).