Dolan the saviour as Garrycastle live to fight another day
THE dream of a hat-trick of county titles lives on for holders Garrycastle, but between now and October 23, when these teams replay, Mullingar Shamrocks will have visions of winning their first in 11 years.
It wasn't a classic by any means at Cusack Park, but both managers, Anthony Cunningham of Garrycastle and Ray Smyth of Mullingar Shamrocks, have reason for optimism.
In Cunningham's case, the hope for the future was tempered by a feeling of relief, as only an injury-time equaliser by James Dolan saved Garrycastle when defeat looked imminent.
James did terrifically well to make up for a rare error by his cousin Dessie Dolan, whose attempt at a '45' sent the ball skidding on a low trajectory towards the Shamrocks goal.
It looked as if the Mullingar defence would manage a clearance but James took the ball low into his chest, and under extreme pressure managed to turn and fire it over for the final score of the match.
"With 30 seconds left, I didn't know what amount of injury time there was going to be played and we were on the ropes," said Anthony Cunningham.
"Our lads battled back twice or three times and that bit of experience counted there in the finish. It could have gone either way but we're delighted to get out of jail."
Smyth was in charge of the Downs club that won the county title at Garrycastle's expense in 2005, and he nearly did it again yesterday.
"Maybe there was a little bit of belief needed in our lads but we battled well. We missed a few chances but they missed a few as well," he said. "Garrycastle are a good team. They're very experienced and they've good players. They have a good team game as well but our lads battled hard, battled the whole way.
"That match will bring our lads on a bit in confidence. As far as I'm concerned it's a 50-50 situation for the next day."
Dessie Dolan once again proved his class and his value to Garrycastle by contributing seven points, two from frees and one from an earlier '45' on a day when scores didn't come easily.
This game was a repeat of the 2010 final when Garrycastle got home by 2-9 to 1-8.
The reigning champions didn't manage to score a goal yesterday, but the sniper and opportunist in Dessie Dolan kept them alive right to the death.
How badly that was needed, as a much younger Mullingar side played it tough, and created slightly more openings close to goal.
The one goal they did get, which was scored in dramatic fashion by 21-year-old Lorcan Smyth -- a son of manager Ray and brother of Shamrocks defender Aonghus -- came from a shot despatched with power from 30 metres at a difficult angle in the seventh minute.
The score added nicely to the opening point of the game scored by Ciaran Curley for Shamrocks in the second minute.
Dessie Dolan opened Garrycastle's account with a point from a '45' in the 13th minute, and between then and half time the sides ground it out to go in at 0-6 for Garrycastle and 1-3 for Mullingar.
Paddy Mulvihill with two points and Dessie with four, three from placed balls, accounted for Garrycastle's interval total, while Lorcan Smyth (1-2) and that Curley point went on the record for Shamrocks.
Rory McGowan slipped over a neatly taken score to put Garrycastle in the lead for the first time immediately after half-time, but then came the miss of the match by Shamrocks' Simon Quinn a minute later.
Quinn broke through the Garrycastle cover to bear down on goal, but moved slightly to his right before shooting at the far post, and he ended up sliding the ball wide.
In such a low-scoring match, that kind of miss can prove costly, and Dessie compounded the error by putting Garrycastle two points ahead with 20 minutes to go.
A ferocious effort was being made by both sides, with Dessie, Doran Hart, the Mulvihills Enda and Paddy and skipper John Gaffey at the heart of the drive by the holders.
Mullingar's Smyths, Aonghus and Lorcan, Donal O'Donoghue and Darragh Daly put a gloss on their performance by getting vital scores, and when O'Donoghue fisted over a 57th minute point, Mullingar led by 1-8 to 0-10.
The closing six minutes -- ref Pat Fox added on three extra for injuries -- were hectic and frantic but with virtually the last kick of the match, James Dolan proved to be Garrycastle's saviour.
Scorers -- Garrycastle: D Dolan 0-7 (2f, 1 '45'), P Mulvihill 0-2, James Dolan, R McGowan 0-1 each. Mullingar Shamrocks: L Smyth 1-2, A Smyth, D O'Donoghue 0-2 each, C Curley, D Daly 0-1.
Garrycastle -- S Maguire; E Mulvihill, J Gaffey, A Fox; K Henson, D Harte, M McCallon; S O'Donoghue, D O'Shaughnessy; R McGowan , D Dolan, J Dolan; C Cosgrove, P Mulvihill , J Duignan. Subs: P Dillon for Cosgrove (38), G Dolan for Fox (53), A Daly for Duignan (59), J Maguire for McGowan (60).
Mullingar Shamrocks -- P Shaw; E Moore, K Gavin, A Purcell; A Smyth, M Curley, D Gavin; D Daly, D O'Donoghue; F Spellman, D Corroon , D Miller; S Quinn, L Smyth, C Curley. Subs: A Clinton for Purcell (41), C Daly for Spellman (42), C O'Leary for Quinn (52).
REF -- P Fox (Rosemount)