Loughrea booked their passage to their fourth final in seven years when Neil Keary converted a free in the closing seconds of stoppage time.
The free was awarded after Alan Gaynor was adjudged to have fouled the ball.
As angry Mullagh supporters went to vent their anger afterwards, the referee remained inside the pitch perimeter. Match officials and players walk through a terrace at one end of the stadium , and after about ten minutes Gardaí escorted the referee – a former Galway senior player – as Mullagh supporters continued to display their anger at being denied a chance of reaching their first final since 1966.
Instead, it is Loughrea who will go on to meet Portumna for the fourth time in seven years, with Loughrea emerging victorious in a hugely controversial contest in 2006.
Yesterday’s contest between these neighbours was heated from the outset and both sides were reduced to 14 men after ten minutes when former Galway star Nigel Shaughnessy and Cathal Hardiman received straight red cards after an altercation.
Mullagh, who were forced to start without former Galway defender and captain Derek Hardiman, held a two-point advantage seven minutes from the break, but Loughrea hit four unanswered points to lead 0-9 to 0-7 at half-time.
Points from Niall Cahalan, Kevin Briscoe and Conor Dervan saw Mullagh regain the lead early in the second period, but with Keary and Johnny Maher in scoring form, the underdogs were chasing the game after that.
Loughrea’s Cathal Dervan saw his penalty at the threequarter stage but, with time running out, Alan Whyte and Niall Cahalan points had the game tied going into injury-time, before Neil Keary’s controversial late free decided the outcome.
Scorers for Loughrea: N Keary (0-11, nine frees, one 65); J Maher (0-2); N Shaughnessy (0-1); E Mahony (0-1); J Coen (0-1).
Scorers for Mullagh: N Cahalan (0-5, two frees); A Whyte (0-3); Conor Dervan (0-2); Cathal Dervan (0-2); D Reilly (0-2); K Briscoe (0-1).
LOUGHREA: S Morgan; Eoin Mahony, D McClearn, D Melia; J Dooley, N Shaughnessy, T Regan; G Keary, B Mahony; B Dooley, V Maher, J Coen; J Maher, J O’Loughlin, N Keary.
Subs: Emmett Mahony (0-1) for B Dooley (24), P Hoban for Eoin Mahony (52), R Regan for Emmett Mahony (54), S Cusack for J Dooley (59).
MULLAGH: E Ward; D Clarke, A Gaynor, N Mannion; C Hardiman, Conor Dervan, J Rafferty; N Cahalan, K Briscoe; F Hardiman, Cathal Dervan, D Glennon; A Whyte, F Coone, D Reilly.
Referee: C Helebert.