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Garrycastle 'relieved' to get another swipe at Shamrocks in replay

GARRYCASTLE were All-Ireland finalists last spring and, for flashes of yesterday's Westmeath SFC final at Cusack Park, you saw why. And for the rest? It was they who resembled the callow challengers left running on empty.

Nine points up early in the second half, they were hanging on for dear life at the death, deadlocked with a resurgent Mullingar Shamrocks at 3-9 apiece. Garrycastle's perennial talisman, Dessie Dolan, had succumbed to injury by then. Lorcan Smyth was scoring for fun at the far end. The winning score, if it was to materialise, would surely come from a Shamrock ...

But Smyth, of all people, fluffed the best chance to win it -- a 35-metre free in front of the posts -- and it means these inseparable rivals must do it again next Sunday (2.30).

"We're relieved because there was 10 or 15 minutes in the second half where they had a complete run on us," admitted Paul Clancy, the former Galway footballer who has taken over the Garrycastle hotseat from fellow county man Anthony Cunningham.

His Mullingar counterpart, Ray Smyth, was in ebullient mood after watching his son inspire the comeback with a 2-5 haul. "Every one of ye should be shouting and making sure we win a senior championship because they deserve it," the veteran boss advised his media inquisitors.

Deserving is one thing, but the current crew still haven't got their hands on the elusive Flanagan Cup. They had lost the previous two county finals to their four-in-a-row chasing rivals; now, as with last year, it goes to a second day.

In many respects this was a poor-quality showpiece, blighted by errors and some hara-kiri defending (especially by the challengers) ... and yet for dramatic oscillations, frenzied goal action and that spectacular Shamrocks fightback, it was ultimately compelling.

It initially threatened to be a rout, especially after a 21st-minute six-point turnaround when James Dolan fisted home a gift-wrapped assist from cousin Dessie -- just seconds after Ciaran Curley had struck a Garrycastle upright.


The recently hamstrung Dessie was only an 11th-hour call-up; inside a minute the former All Star suffered the dead leg that hastened his eventual 39th-minute exit.

But with James Dolan on fire (scoring 1-3 from play), Doron Harte hoovering up the breaks and Aidan Browne controlling midfield, the stage looked set for Garrycastle. Even when Smyth slickly finished his first goal (28 minutes) after a defence-shredding move, the champions responded within a minute as Conor Cosgrove's shot crept over the line despite being partially saved by Ronan Tyrrell.

Then, having trailed 2-7 to 1-4 at the interval, Shamrocks suffered a self-inflicted hammer blow within 20 seconds of the restart. Tyrrell was the fall-guy, fumbling Dessie Dolan's attempted point for Cosgrove to pounce.

From the abyss, Shamrocks summoned an unlikely comeback. Smith buried a 33rd-minute goal after a pinpoint delivery by the hugely influential Sean Daly. Then wing-back Micheál Curley advanced past Paul Dillon to arrow home their third goal in the 47th minute, cutting the margin to three.

Three more Smyth points from play tied the contest. Shamrocks now lorded midfield and were only denied by some wayward execution (they 'won' the wide count 11-1) while the holders seemed to physically wilt -- but they regrouped just in time.

"It was a strange kind of game," admitted Clancy. "We scrambled two goals, we played some outstanding stuff and some really novice stuff."

He insisted Dolan's hamstring is fine but will assess his dead leg during the week, while Shamrocks will hope ex-Westmeath star Donal O'Donoghue (who lasted 36 minutes) fully recovers from a virus that laid him low all week.

"He must have took more drugs and more medicine than Lance Armstrong!" his manager quipped.

Six days hence and we'll know who has the last laugh.

SCORERS -- Garrycastle: C Cosgrove 2-4 (3f, 1 '45'); J Dolan 1-3; E Mulvihill, P Dillon 0-1 each. Mullingar Shamrocks: L Smyth 2-5 (1f); M Curley 1-0; D O'Donoghue, K Daly, J Ganley, C Curley (f) 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, D Dolan, J Dolan. Subs: A Fox for R Fox (ht), E Monaghan for D Dolan (inj 39), M Guiheen for Duignan (41), 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; C Twomey, S Daly, P Joyce; L Smyth, C Curley, J Ganley. Subs: A Clinton for O'Donoghue (36), S Quinn for D Gavin (39), A Smyth for K Daly (41), D Daly for Ganley (43), D Miller for Purcell (inj 52).

REFEREE: S Carroll (The Downs).


MAN OF MATCH: Lorcan Smyth (Shamrocks).