Tuesday 24 October 2017

Late, late drama as Loughgiel force a replay at the death

Liam Watson, Loughgiel Shamrocks, is congratulted by team-mates and supporters after the game
Liam Watson, Loughgiel Shamrocks, is congratulted by team-mates and supporters after the game
Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

A goal from Liam Watson with the last puck of the game saw reigning All-Ireland champions Loughgiel Shamrocks force a replay with St Thomas after an enthralling All-Ireland semi-final at Parnell Park.

St Thomas looked destined for a place in the All-Ireland decider against Kilcormac-Killoughey until the very last moment of extra-time


The Galway side were fast out of the blocks and lead 0-3 to 0-2 early on before St Thomas’s Conor Cooney and Tony McCluskey traded points.


A fortuitous Liam Watson free and a Joey Scullion point saw the Ulster side take the lead but it was immediately cancelled out by Kenneth Burke and James Regan’s point from tight angle saw St Thomas regain the lead on 16 minutes.


.Conor Cooney 65 stretched the lead to two points before Loughgiel pounced on an error by the St Thomas goalie to score a scrappy goal through Shay Casey and another Watson free stretched their lead to two.


A second sublime sideline cut from Conor Cooney was matched by another Watson free just before the break and Loughgiel Shamrocks led 1-7 to 0-8 at half-time.


Richie Murray had a great chance for the Galway champions on the restart but his shot was brilliantly saved by Damien Quinn but the ball eventually found its way to James Regan and he fired over and points in quick succession by brothers Bernard and Kenneth Burke and another Conor Cooney point saw the Galway side storm to a two-point lead.


Big Joey Scullion reduced the arrears to one with a fine point from the left but a great solo point from the speedy Bernard Burke matched that and another Kenneth Burke point stretched the lead to three with 17 minutes remaining.


Scullion responded again with a stunning effort from out near the sideline as the Antrim side tried desperately to rally before Liam Watson saw his 21 yard free brilliantly batted away by the St Thomas’ defence.


Casey goaled again to see Loughgiel regain the lead and another point saw their lead increase to two before Bernard Burke and Tony McCluskey traded points.


Another Cooney free for St Thomas left the minimum between the sides with just six minutes of normal time remaining and the game in the balance.


Shane Cooney spurned a great chance to goal for St Thomas after Richie Murray had found him free in front of the Loughgiel goals on 57 minutes.


On the stroke of full-time Conor Cooney produced a moment of genius to point from an almost impossible angle to level matters at 2-12 to 0-18 to send the game into extra-time.


Cooney continued his incredible form with the opening point of extra-time and James Regan added to it to give St Thomas a two-point lead.


Liam Watson responded with a free but Bernard Burke restored the two point advantage by side-stepping well before pointing.


Loughgiel’s best performer Joey Scullion produced another fabulous score and then Shay Casey levelled matters.


The moment that could have decided the game arrived just before the end of the opening period of extra-time as Gerry Murray pounced on a slip by Loughgiel defender James Campbell to fire to the net and ST Thomas led by three at the change of ends.


David Burke and a brace from Conor Cooney cancelled out three Loughgiel points in the early stages of the second half of extra-time and goalscorer Murray added another to increase the lead to four.


Liam Watson went for a goal from a 30 yard free as time ticked away but had to be content with a point.


Kenneth Burke saw the line for a second bookable offence late on to put a dampener on a great display.


With time up Watson had a chance from a 21 yard free, awarded after a goal-line scramble, to force a replay as he rattled the back of the net.

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