WHAT A difference a year makes. In 2011 Arklow Rocks Parnells lost the Junior C hurling final by a point to Western Gaels, last Sunday at Aughrim they were toasting championship success after beating Enniskerry by one point in a cracking C decider that went to extra time before we had a decision.
Led by inspirational midfielder Shane Vickers, Enniskerry looked as if they were going to pilfer victory right up to the end when late points by Martin Reilly (free) and corner-forward David Heffernan snatched victory for the Arklow side at the death.
And even then Vickers who had scored eight points from frees and a 65, had one last chance of sending this final to a replay but for once he pulled his free for an equaliser wide of the right hand post.
By any standard, especially Junior C, this was an excellent exhibition of competitive hurling and both teams are to be commended for the way that they gave it their all from start to finish.
This was also a final replay, the first 60 minutes of hurling unable to separate these well matched sides.
A week earlier Shane Vickers had given Enniskerry a great start as they led by 1-7 to 0-5, but on this occasions ARP should have had the title wrapped up by half time instead of finding themselves clinging to a two points lead at the break, 2-4 to 2-2.
Enniskerry can thank their brilliant goalkeeper Jason Walsh for being still in this match at the halfway stage as he brought off a string if super saves from Gerry Byrne, Danny Curran, Jonathan Roche - to mention a few - to deny Arklow further goals.
Collie Byrne pointed Enniskerry into the lead from a free after two minutes and then eight minutes later the Arklow seasiders gifted them a goal when a long ball from Vickers was battled into his own net by corner-back James Sunderland.
Evergreen Danny Curran came to ARP's rescue with two rapid fire goals before half time to give them a 2-4 to 2-2 lead at the break. The second Enniskerry goal was scored by lion-hearted Christy Fox, who lined out at centre-back but quickly moved to a more familiar role of attacker.
Danny Curran was one of a number of experienced players who backed boned the Arklow seasiders, but they also had a blend of youth with Conor Doyle at midfield and Jonathan Roche showing themselves as skilful hurlers and great prospects for the future.
Martin Reilly, who had a fine game at midfielder for Arklow Rocks, and as a free-taker, and Derek Heffernan stretched the lead after the restart, but then Shane Vickers cut loose for Enniskerry and we had a rip-roaring contest to the end.
Ross Lally harvested a point for Enniskerry but Vickers was their main score-provider, particularly from frees. At the three quarter-stage Christy Fox drilled home a third goal for the north county team, putting them into a one point lead 3-4 to 2-6.
Jonathan Roche and David Heffernan restored Arklow to the front, Shane Vickers turned the tables once more from frees and so this absorbing contest throbbed and ebbed-and-flowed. Vickers and Collie Brown pilfered two more Enniskerry points and they were leading by three coming up to the final whistle 3-8 to 2-8.
ARP went in search of an equalizer. We thought all was lost, but the brave Arklow men did not despair. At the death Danny Curran, the hero of many an ARP victory throughout his illustrious hurling career, whipped the sliothar to the net at the near post and the game was into extra time.
In the first period of extra time Shane Vickers put Enniskerry ahead from two frees, but David Heffernan and Danny Curran cancelled them out. ARP were awarded a penalty but Jason Walsh again proved the saviour from Martin Reilly's shot.
Gripping stuff indeed. In the second period of extra time, Vickers edged Enniskerry back into the lead; Martin Reilly tied the match again from a free. With two minutes left on the clock, David Heffernan grabbed the winner for ARP, but Vickers saw his late, late pressure free for an equaliser drift wide of the right hand post. Jubilant Arklow Rocks players celebrated as if they had won the All-Ireland. It gives a badly needed boost to the club, and some hope for the future. Scorers for ARP: Danny Curran (3-2), Martin Reilly (0-4, 3f), Derek Heffernan (0-5), Jonathan Roche (0-1). Enniskerry: Shane Vickers (1-8 7f, 1 65), Christy Fox (2-0), Collie Brown (0-2, one free), Ross Lally (0-1).