Brady's late strike revives Coolderry
Coolderry 2-15 St Rynagh's 1-16
Offaly hurling may be enduring lean times in recent years but the capacity of some of the county's clubs to remain highly competitive was much in evidence in Tullamore as Coolderry crashed through the 30 mark at the head of the roll of honour for senior titles accumulated.
The manner of the defeat was heartbreaking for a young St Rynagh's team that picked off four minor titles between 2005 to 2010 but have lost three of the last four senior finals now and seven in all since their last triumph in 1993.
Having trailed by seven points early in the second half they turned it around to lead by three with just four minutes of normal time remaining. But it would unjust to use the words robbery or larceny in relation to Coolderry's late surge.
First they had to halt St Rynagh's momentum, which they did. Then they had to regain it themselves. Ultimately it boiled down to the oldest trick in the book, posting their most effective ball winner on the edge of the square in the final few minutes hoping that something would stick. Except with Joe Brady there'll always more than just hope involved.
A prodigious ball-winner at centre-back in the first half as the former All-Ireland finalists dug in to dominate, he moved up to full-forward just as Damien Murray was pointing a 57th-minute free for a foul on Brian Carroll to reduce the gap to two points. His switch might well have been accompanied by the 'Jaws' soundtrack because of the imminent danger he brought and, sure enough, within two minutes he had struck.
Off Martin Corcoran's delivery the 33-year-old had the power to catch ahead of Dermott Shortt and put the St Rynagh's captain on the back foot. Brady's shot wasn't crisply hit, though, and goalkeeper Conor Clancy was beaten by a hop he hadn't been expecting. With Carroll following up with a converted free from around 85 metres Coolderry had wrestled back control and weren't going to relinquish a second time.
Rynagh's were unbeaten throughout this championship and had started both their quarter-final against Shinrone and semi-final against Kilcormac-Killoughey impressively.
Coolderry were cognisant of that and manager Johnny Kelly, a former All-Ireland club-winning manager with Portumna, admitted they targeted that period of the game.
It couldn't have worked better. Within 20 seconds Kevin Connolly had rifled a shot past Clancy off another Corcoran delivery and Rynagh's were rattled. They didn't score from play themselves until added-time at the end of the first half when Stephen Quirke finally slipped Stephen Connolly to close the gap to 1-9 to 0-7.
Otherwise they were relying on Stephen Wynne's unfailing accuracy from frees to keep them in touch, and Garry Conneely's patchwork in defence.
Coolderry, in contrast, had big players everywhere. Kevin Brady surged forward for a point in either half, Connolly burrowed his slight frame into everything and anything, Carroll roamed out to half-forward and created a lot in tandem with Martin Corcoran while David King and Barry Teehan generally had the upper hand around the middle.
Three times in that opening half they led by six points and with little or nothing going right for Rynagh's it was only going one way.
When Kevin Connolly and Carroll fired over quick points after the restart to push the gap out to seven, Ryangh's didn't look like they had an answer. But full-forward Joseph O'Connor's switch with midfielder Sean Dolan worked well both ways.
To their credit they kept pressing and when Ronan Hughes worked his way into a scoring position on 43 minutes the gap was down to three, 1-12 to 0-12.
Substitute Ben Conneely struck on 47 minutes, catching from Aidan Treacy and turning superbly to smash past Stephen Corcoran, the first time they would lead.
Connolly replied but they piled the pressure on with the next three points, two Wynne points to take his tally to 0-13 and a fine effort from Conor Hernon.
"We needed to negate the good starts that Rynagh's have been getting the last couple of games and we put a lot of emphasis on that. It worked to a certain degree, we were in a comfortable position at half-time. Things turned slightly but ultimately we were full value for the win," said Kelly.
Former Galway hurler Francis Forde, manager of St Rynagh's, accepted the failure to win two previous Offaly finals may have weighed heavily on the players.
"You wonder was that a bit of an issue in the first half, the fact that we were so flat. It was nearly when the game was gone from us that we started to hurl. It's that experience of getting over the line and there is only one way to get it.
"I suppose what Coolderry had was the experience of winning before. We didn't have that, but in fairness we hurled so well in the second half, put ourselves in a great position. We just couldn't see it out."
"We didn't have that, but in fairness we hurled so well in the second half, put ourselves in a great position. We just couldn't see it out."
Scorers - Coolderry: D Murray 0-6 (5fs); K Connolly 1-2; J Brady 1-0; B Carroll 0-3 (1f); K Brady 0-2; A Corcoran, D King 0-1 each. St Rynagh's: S Wynne 0-13 (12fs); B Conneely 1-0; R Hughes, S Quirke, C Hernon 0-1 each.
Coolderry - S Corcoran; S Connolly, T Corcoran, S Burke; A Corcoran, J Brady, K Brady; C Molloy, D King; K Connolly, B Teehan, D Murray; E Ryan, M Corcoran, B Carroll. Subs: A Connolly for S Connolly (50), D Parlon for Ryan (60).
St Rynagh's - C Clancy; D Maloney, D Shortt, N Wynne; C Hernon, G Conneely, P Camon; S Dolan, N White; A Treacy, S Wynne, R Hughes; M Maloney, J O'Connor, S Quirke. Subs: P Quirke for White (20). B Conneely for M Maloney (ht), S Og Lyons for Hernon (58).
Referee - D Cooke (Crinkill).