YOUNG IRELANDS 3-14; DUNNAMAGGIN 1-15 IT'S altogether possible that the 10,000 fans who packed into Nowlan Park yesterday witnessed the greatest ever performance in a county hurling final.
Granted, that's a sweeping statement but it's also one which can be supported by strands of convincing evidence from the latest casebook of the amazing DJ Carey.
He scored 2-7 (2-5 from play) while also being actively involved in virtually all of Young Irelands' attacking enterprise on a day when he came very close to producing the perfect performance.
Thirty minutes after the game, DJ was still on the pitch, signing autograph books, programmes, jerseys and just about any material fans could locate as they jostled for space around the smiling hero. A rainbow sparkled overhead, providing its own spectacular halo as Carey reflected on an incredible occasion.
The perfect performance, DJ? "Ah, I missed a free and a few other little things went wrong but sure all the counts is that we won. It doesn't really matter who played well it's a team effort and all the lads played their part."
Indeed, but his contribution was on a different level to everybody else. Named at left half-forward, he started at full-forward, where he was marked by county star, Noel Hickey, a full-back who has left a fair share of the country's No 14's in a beaten daze.
Yesterday, it was Hickey's turn to overdose on frustration as Carey hit him for 2-2 in the opening 20 minutes. The first goal came in the 14th minute when Dick Carroll's shot was saved by David Herrity only for the alert Carey to bat in the rebound.
The second goal six minutes later was pure genius. Quite how Carey got the ball into his hand in front of goal is a mystery but not nearly as much as how he managed to weave clear before whipping to the net.
"It just seemed to open up in front of me," he explained. Still don't understand how you managed it, DJ.
Despite Carey's brilliance, Dunnamaggin hung on against the wind in the first half, thanks to a sound work ethic and the free-scoring expertise of midfielder, Colin Herrity. They trailed by 2-5 to 0-7 at the break and increased momentum early in the second half to trail by just two points after six minutes.
Paul and Ramie Cahill, Eamonn Kennedy, Canice Hickey and Noel Lahart were injecting real fire into Dunnamaggin's effort but Young Ireland's responded with some excellent points to lead by three (2-9 to 0-12) after 44 minutes. Two minutes later, Dick Carroll shot Young Ireland's third goal, quickly followed by a Carey point from an 85-metre free.
He decorated the closing minutes with two more astonishing points and when Dunnamaggin were awarded a penalty in the 58th minute, he dashed back to do some goal duties alongside his brother, Martin, who turned Ken O'Shea's drive over the bar.
A minute later Seán Ryan drove home Dunnamaggin's goal but it was purely a consolation effort. They had hurled well for various periods but simply couldn't cope with Carey's genius, backed up by fine contributions from Ciaran Carroll, Eoghan Farrell, Cathal Fitzgerald, Thomas Drennan, Jack Carey, Charlie and David Carter.
Dusk was gathering across Nowlan Park when DJ finally reached the tunnel, still surrounded by fans.
"Can I have your hurl," asked a youngster. DJ glanced down and patted the kid on the head. "I'd love to give it to you but I need it next Sunday."
You see the Gowran dream isn't over as they now move on to the AIB Leinster club championship, where they play Kilmessan (Meath) next Sunday. "It's great to add a county title to an All-Ireland title. It makes the year very special," said Carey. And it's not over yet, as some other defences will discover in the coming weeks.
SCORERS Young Irelands: DJ Carey 2-7 (0-2f), D Carroll 1-0, D Carter, C Carter 0-2 each, J McDermott, J Fitzgerald, J Carey 0-1 each. Dunnamaggin: C Herrity 0-7 (7f), S Ryan 1-0, R Cahill 0-2, K Moore, P Cahill, S O'Neill, N Lahart, K O'Shea, E Kennedy ('65') 0-1 each.
YOUNG IRELANDS M Carey; C Carroll, E Farrell, C Fitzgerald; S Byrne, T Drennan, C Phelan; O Carter, J McDermott; J Fitzgerald, J Carey, C Carter; D Carroll, DJ Carey, D Carter.
Subs: M Carter for Phelan (28), P Farrell for Byrne (ht), P O'Neill for McDermott (46).
DUNNAMAGGIN D Herrity; T Hickey, N Hickey, B Mackey; C Hickey, E Kennedy, N Lahart; C Herrity, D Lahart; R Cahill, P Cahill, K Moore; B O'Shea, K O'Shea, S Ryan. Subs: S O'Neill for D Lahart (43), J Hickey for Mackay (48).
REF P Dunphy (Carrigeen).