Watson hat-trick steers Antrim side to All-Ireland title
Loughgiel (Antrim) 4-13 Coolderry (Offaly) 0-17
Loughgiel are All-Ireland champions once again, after Liam Watson superbly invoked the spirit of '83 with a spectacular Croke Park hat-trick.
The Antrim star tore the Coolderry defence to shreds with a wonderful display which saw him pick off a 3-7 tally as the Shamrocks bridged a 29-year gap from their only previous triumph.
Loughgiel’s four goals all came in the first half, giving them a nine points lead that the Offaly men were unable to overhaul.
Appearing in their first final Coolderry started well, but were soon overwhelmed by the goal rush that wrecked their dream.
It was Shay Casey who struck Loughgiel’s first goal, finishing low to the net in the sixth minute after scrapping for possession of Eddie McCloskey’s scuffed delivery.
Coolderry had looked sharp in the opening stages, going in front with points from Damien Murray and Eoin Ryan.
Even after McCloskey and Brendan McCarry had fired over scores for the men from the Glens, the Leinster champions drew level through Brian Carroll and looked to have the measure of the Ulster men.
But in an explosive second quarter, Loughgiel stunned their opponents with three goals, all of them from the brilliant Watson.
He began his one-man demolition act by following up with a close range finish after Stephen Corcoran had saved from Casey.
Then he blasted a 20 metre free to the net in the 28th minute, and completed his hat-trick in spectacular fashion two minutes later, displaying immaculate control to fetch McCloskey’s long ball and beat Corcoran with a majestic finish.
Loughgiel led by 4-6 to 0-9 at the interval, but an inspired Coolderry threw everything into attack on the restart, and withing five minutes they had trimmed a nine-point deficit back to five.
Substitute Kevin Connolly brought a terrific save from DD Quinn, and along with Murray and Parlon, clipped over points to give them renewed hope.
But Loughgiel weathered the storm, thanks in no small part to some heroic defending from Paul Gillan, and hit back with scores from Watson and Barney McAuley.
When Watson landed a marvellous point from a tight angle, the lead had been stretched out to eight, and Coolderry were struggling to rediscover the verve and dash they had displayed in the opening stages of the half.
Murray pulled back a couple of points from expertly struck frees and Eoin Ryan steered over a neat score, but there was to be no stopping the Shamrocks, with Watson powering over an 80 metre free, before McCarry pointed after Stephen Corcoran had pulled off a top quality save from Casey.
Loughgiel scorers: L Watson 3-7 (1-5f), S Casey 1-0, B McCarry 0-3, B McAuley, E McCloskey, J Scullion 0-1 each.
Coolderry scorers: D Murray 0-8 (8f), B Carroll 0-3, E Ryan, C Parlon 0-2 each, K Brady, K Connolly 0-1 each.
Loughgiel: DD Quinn, P Gillan, N McGarry, R McCloskey, J Campbell, M Scullion, J Campbell, B McAuley, M McFaden, J Scullion, D Laverty, E McCloskey, B McCarry, L Wagtson, S Casey.
Subs: S Dobbin for McFadden, T McCloskey for Dobbin, D McCloskey for Casey
Coolderry: S Corcoran, B Kelly, T Corcoran, A Corcoran, K Brady, J Brady, B O’Meara, K Teehan, D King, B Carroll, B Teehan, C Parlon, E Ryan, M Corcoran, D Murray.
Subs: K Connolly for T Corcoran, B Larkin for Kelly
Referee: A Kelly (Galway).