Watson rocket forces a replay
Loughgiel S'rocks 3-19
A thrilling semi-final was suitably embellished with a dramatic finish as Loughgiel's Liam Watson blasted home a 20-metre free to force a replay after a game that will be hard to surpass all year for sheer excitement.
The All-Ireland champions looked set for another final appearance but then man of the match Conor Cooney landed a massive equaliser from the right-wing for St Thomas' to force extra-time.
Cooney, brought on as a sub and then replaced in the drawn All-Ireland final against Kilkenny last year, came of age yesterday at Parnell Park. He scored 0-7 from play and another five from placed balls.
This was St Thomas' first time playing at this level but they made a dream start with three early scores before Loughgiel settled. The heavy pitch restricted both sides.
After 20 minutes, a long ball from Barney McAuley was not dealt with by St Thomas' keeper Patrick Skehill in the mud and Shay Casey helped forced the ball over the line.
A Watson free put them 1-6 to 0-7 ahead but once more Conor Cooney responded, steering sideline from 45 metres on the right before another Watson free pushed Loughgiel 1-7 to 0-8 in front at the interval.
St Thomas' again started the half in blistering fashion and while Richie Murray, who scored a hat-trick in the Galway county final, had a shot superbly saved by Loughgiel goalkeeper Damian Quinn, points from James Regan, Bernard Burke, Kenneth Burke and Conor Cooney pushed them 0-12 to 1-7 in front after 37 minutes.
Points from Joey Scullion and Watson, either side of another Cooney effort, left just one between them after 40 minutes.
St Thomas' got on top but could only add a couple of points from a good period of dominance and the All-Ireland champions responded with a fine goal from Benny McCarry after 50 minutes, after Watson had a free saved.
Eddie McCloskey quickly added a point to make it 2-11 to 0-15 but St Thomas' hit back with points from Cooney and Bernard Burke either side of a Tony McCloskey effort to leave one between them with seven minutes left.
Both sides squandered good chances in a hectic finish but Conor Cooney kept his nerve to steer over a wonderful equaliser from 35 metres on the right touchline in the first minute of stoppage-time to force extra-time.
A goal from sub Gerald Murray in the final minute of the first period of extra-time saw St Thomas' lead by 1-21 to 2-15.
St Thomas' looked set for victory when they pushed four points clear in the closing stages but Watson had a free tipped over, after Kenneth Burke picked up a second yellow card, before he struck for his dramatic equaliser.
Scorers – St Thomas': C Cooney 0-12 (2f, 2 s/l, 1 '65), B Burke 0-4, G Murray 1-1, J Regan, K Burke 0-3 each, Richard Murray, David Burke 0-1 each. Loughgiel Shamrocks: L Watson 1-7 (1-7f), B McCarry 1-2, S Casey 1-1, J Scullion 0-4, E McCloskey 0-3, T McCloskey, S Dobbin 0-1 each
St Thomas': P Skehill; C Burke (E Burke 67), Robert Murray, S Skehill; E Tannion, Darragh Burke, S Burke; K Burke, David Burke; S Cooney (G Murray 60), C Cooney, J Regan; A Kelly (E Burke 27, Kelly 60), Richard Murray, B Burke.
Loughgiel Shamrocks: D Quinn; P Gillan, N McGarry, M McFadden; J Campbell, M Scullion, J Campbell; B McAuley (O McFadden 78), T McCloskey; L Watson, D Laverty (S Dobbin 650, E McCloskey; B McCarry, J Scullion, S Casey.
Referee: B Kelly (Westmeath)