Smyth leads Mullingar rally to put Garrycastle four-in-a-row on ice
Garrycastle 3-9 Mullingar Shamrocks 3-9
Despite trailing by nine points within 30 seconds of the start of the second half, Mullingar Shamrocks came very close to dethroning three-in-a-row Garrycastle in an absorbing decider in Cusack Park.
A remarkable game saw last season's All-Ireland finalists kick just one wide compared with the challengers' 11.
Additionally, both of Conor Cosgrove's goals for Garrycastle were gifted somewhat by the Mullingar defence.
Despite this, it was Shamrocks who looked the more likely winners in the closing minutes of a game which was entertaining for the 2,480 spectators, but still contained long bouts of scrappy and untidy play.
Garrycastle led by 0-5 to 0-2 when they pounced for their first goal, the ball being slapped to the net from close range by James Dolan in the 22nd minute -- having been teed up by his otherwise ineffective cousin, Dessie Dolan -- at the end of a swift counterattack after Ciaran Curley had hit the butt of the Garrycastle post.
Six minutes later, the energetic Sean Daly picked out the impressive Lorcan Smyth, who duly found the net for Mullingar Shamrocks.
A minute before the interval, Cosgrove pounced, squeezing the ball home from close range and the holders led by 2-7 to 1-4 at the break.
A very soft second goal from Cosgrove seconds after the resumption of play -- taking advantage of a bad handling error by Mullingar goalkeeper Ronan Tyrrell -- looked like it had sealed a four in-a-row success for Garrycastle.
However, two minutes later, a great finish to the net from Smyth -- again having been set up by Sean Daly -- gave the challengers real hope.
Garrycastle still led by six points (3-9 to 2-6) after 43 minutes, but they failed to add to their tally in the time remaining.
With 13 minutes left on the clock, a fine individual goal from Mullingar wing-back Micheal Curley lifted his colleagues, and the sides were deadlocked when Smyth kicked a great point in the 57th minute.
The same player missed an outstanding chance to give his side the lead for the first time as the seconds ticked away.
However, his 35-metre free from the ground was poorly struck, ensuring a replay as was the case between the same two sides 12 months ago, a match which Garrycastle won before becoming the first Westmeath side to go on and win a Leinster senior club title.
Scorers -- Garrycastle: C Cosgrove 2-4 (0-3f, 0-1 '45'), J Dolan 1-3, E Mulvihill, P Dillon 0-1 each. Mullingar Shamrocks: L Smyth 2-5 (0-1f), M Curley 1-0, K Daly, D O'Donoghue, C Curley (f),J Ganley 0-1 each.
Garrycastle -- S Brennan; G McCallon, M McCallon, J Gaffey; R Fox, E Mulvihill, D Harte; J Barrett, A Browne; P Dillon, P Mulvihill, J Duignan; C Cosgrove, J Dolan, D Dolan. Subs: A Fox for R Fox (h-t), E Monaghan for D Dolan (38), M Guiheen for Duignan (42), S O'Donoghue for Dillon (49), D O'Shaughnessy for Barrett (58).
Mullingar Shamrocks -- R Tyrrell; E Moore, K Gavin, A Purcell; K Daly, D Gavin, M Curley; D Corroon, D O'Donoghue; P Joyce, S Daly, C Twomey; J Ganley, C Curley, L Smyth. Subs: A Clinton for O'Donoghue (36), S Quinn for D Gavin (39), A Smyth for K Daly (41), D Daly for Ganley (42), D Miller for Purcell (inj 52).
Ref -- S Carroll (The Downs)