Downes and Kilmurry rain on Portlaoise's parade plans
All Ireland Club SFC Semi-final
Referee Michael Duffy needed a Garda escort off the field in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick as Kilmurry-Ibrickane qualified for the final in controversial circumstances.
Portlaoise finished with just 13 players as wing-back Brian Mulligan was red-carded within 20 seconds of the throw in and captain Brian McCormack followed nine minutes into the second half when he picked up a second yellow.
A section of the Portlaoise support vented their considerable anger at Duffy as he made his way to the dressing-room after the game and Portlaoise manager John Mulligan (Brian's father) later described some of Duffy's decisions as "a joke".
"It was a joke. If the man has a conscience, he won't sleep for a long time. If he hasn't a conscience, there won't be a bother on him," said Mulligan.
"We were in an uphill battle from the word go. We were a man down right from the start and we were always on the back foot with waves and waves of attacks coming at us. He caught him a bit high, it was definitely a free but a yellow would have sufficed.
"It was a real sucker punch. If it was five or 10 minutes into the game when it happened, lads could have taken it on board more and we could have re-adjusted but it was just early we could never get going.
"We were disappointed at half-time but it could have been worse but with the second sending off it was game, set and match to them. I don't want to sound like a bad loser harping on about the referee but that was our 136th session as a team today and some of those decisions were just a joke."
And while the after-match scenes will no doubt dominate the headlines, it shouldn't take from what was an outstanding display from Kilmurry.
From diminutive corner-back Martin McMahon, who did a brilliant marking job on the highly-rated Paul Cahillane, captain Enda Coughlan, who was very effective as the extra man, and corner-forwards Michael O'Dwyer and Noel Downes, who scored 1-5 between them, it was a complete team performance.
They were always in control and led 0-9 to 0-4 at half-time. Three minutes after McCormack received his marching orders, Kilmurry really put the game out of Portlaoise's reach. Sub Mark McCarthy intercepted a pass from a Portlaoise defender and he set up Downes who finished smartly past Michael Nolan.
That left the score at 1-11 to 0-5 and while Portlaoise battled on, they were always fighting a losing battle.
Nothing went right for them on the day and with Cahillane hitting the post with two close-range frees as well as having a goal disallowed for square ball, it was a horrible day for the Laois side.
Kilmurry on the other hand have plenty to celebrate. They were priced at 4/1 by the bookies prior to the game and such was the confidence in Portlaoise that a local committee decided a couple of weeks ago to postpone the town's St Patrick's Day parade until March 21.
Kilmurry manager Michael McDermott admitted afterwards that that was significant motivation for his side but not as much as the desire to win the game for suspended wing-back Declan Callinan. Callinan was suspended after their quarter-final win over London champions Tir Chonaill Gaels but will now be back for the final.
"To be fair to the Portlaoise team they had no part in that decision (to postpone the parade) but that did drive us on. However the big motivating factor for us was Declan Callinan. He was done by trial by television and I'm delighted for him now that we got to the final," said Callinan.
"There was a serious belief among the players all week that we could put in a big performance. Portlaoise are formidable opponents but the thing about today was that our quarter-final was a massive help for us.
"We're over the moon but we have to finish it now and forget about today. It's one thing getting to an All-Ireland final but we have to take our chance now because it could be a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
Indeed Kilmurry's trip to Croke Park on St Patrick's Day will be the first time since 1953 that a Clare football team will play in an All-Ireland final.
McDermott's right -- days like days this don't come around too often. Croke Park here they come.
SCORERS - Kilmurry-Ibrickane: N Downes 1-2, I McInerney 0-4 (0-3f, 0-1 '45), M O'Dwyer 0-3, J Daly 0-2 (0-2f), E Coughlan, O O'Dwyer and P O'Dwyer 0-1 each; Portlaoise: P Cahillane 0-3 (0-2f), B McCormack, B Fitzgerald (0-2f) 0-2 each, C Healy 0-1.
KILMURRY-IBRICKANE: D O'Brien; D Hickey, M Killeen, M McMahon; S Hickey, E Coughlan, E Talty; P O'Connor, P O'Dwyer; M Hogan, I McInerney, S Moloney; M O'Dwyer, J Daly, N Downes. Subs: M McCarthy for Moloney (44), O O'Dwyer for Downes (44), B Moloney for Talty (56).
PORTLAOISE -- M Nolan; E Bland, K Fitzpatrick, M McNulty; B Mulligan, C Healy, K Lillis; B McCormack, A Fennelly; C Rogers, B Fitzgerald, B Glynn; P Cahillane, C Byrne, C Boyle. Subs: T Fitzgerald for Byrne (h-t), B Smith for Glynn (40), J Fennell for Boyle (48), P McNulty for Cahillane (54).
Ref -- Michael Duffy (Sligo)