If it’s anything like the entertainment served up by the teams in Cashel’s Leahy Park, then there will be more festive cheer and another reasonable crowd like the 1,550 yesterday. But surely extra-time should have been an option for what is an already ridiculously elongated competition.
In the end, it was Cian Hennessy’s point which sealed another day out after Cahir seemed to be turning the match in their favour with a booming Benny Hickey free in the 54th minute.
Against the wind, Loughmore-Castleiney looked to have taken the initiative in the early part of the second half only for their discipline to let them down at the back.
Cahir led 1-6 to 2-2 at the break and there was never more than a point between them there on in, the sides level on five occasions in the second period.
“We’re delighted to come out with a draw,” admitted Loughmore-Castleiney manager Declan Laffan. “It was one of those helter-skelter games. It got a little tactical.
“There was an awful lot of off-the-ball stuff early on, which we wouldn’t have been happy about. John McGrath was put inside (full-forward) for a reason but sure before the ball was going into him he was getting taken out of it. It’s very difficult when a ref isn’t going to punish someone. You’re trying to play to your strengths but you’re not allowed to.”
Neither manager was too upset by their players’ Christmases being affected by the replay, Laffan even suggesting they will train on Christmas morning.
Cahir and newly-appointed Waterford manager Tom McGlinchey said: “Maybe there should have been extra-time but both teams have been on the go for the last four weeks and an extra-time winner today, I don’t know if it would have been fair. But a final goes to a replay and until the rules change, that’s the way it’s going to stay.
“For the time of the year, the conditions and the pitch weren’t too bad. It was a cracking game and the teams put on a good show. A draw was probably a fair result.”
But for Cahir goalkeeper Brian Enright, who became a father the night previous, Loughmore-Castleiney would have been well on their way to a second successive title. He was level to a Hennessy shot in the third minute and had also made a save prior to Hennessy finding the net in the 20th minute.
The first goal came Cahir’s way, though, and there was controversy about it. Robbie Costigan got his hand to a long ball in from Dean Lonergan and while it looked good the referee was summoned by an umpire to discuss whether the defender was in the area prior to the ball entering it.
The green flag was eventually raised to confirm the seventh minute score but the one at the other end was lifted five minutes later when Liam McGrath fired a rasping shot over Enright after taking a John McGrath delivery.
Hennessy’s three-pointer pushed Loughmore three ahead but for the remaining 10 minutes it was all Cahir, four unanswered scores going their way.
Loughmore didn’t avail as much as they would have liked of the wind advantage. “Probably not,” agreed Laffan, “but again playing the seven defenders is reasonably new to this. This was probably only our fourth game doing it. There are days when not everybody is going to play up to scratch.
“You’ll have off-days and some players excel. Cian Hennessy had a fine score to bring it to a replay. He came through a lot of players and still managed to put it over the bar. Other lads were down but they’ll be right the next day. We go again.”
Loughmore stole ahead when Liam Treacy and John McGrath posted early second- half frees only for Cahir to respond with a quick-fire brace. The champions then responded with a couple, one of them from corner-back Tomás McGrath adding his second of the game.
More goal chances came Loughmore’s way, Evan Sweeney having a shot blocked on the line and John Ryan making a strong run through the middle, only to see his shot go wide.
Cahir midfielder Eddie Kendrick’s point in the 46th minute to level the game once more just crept over the bar as he shot for goal. Eight minutes passed without a score before Hickey’s monster free seemed to give Cahir the initiative until Hennessy’s intervention.
“Loughmore are there a long time and the one thing our lads don’t do is panic,” insisted McGlinchey. “It was going to be back and forth and I don’t think anyone has an advantage now. As the cliche goes, it’s only half-time.
“It’ll be the GOAL mile and a swim in the river!” he laughed about Cahir’s preparations for the replay. “We will get together and fitness won’t be a thing at this stage. It will be recovery. We’ll stay away from the cherry trifle!”
Scorers for Cahir: B Hickey (2 frees), P Whelan (3 frees) (0-3 each); R Costigan (1-0); D Lonergan 0-2; P O’Flaherty, E Kendrick 0-1 each.
Scorers for Loughmore-Castleiney: C Hennessy (1-1); L McGrath (1-0); T McGrath, L Treacy (frees), J McGrath (frees) (0-2 each).
CAHIR: B Enright; M O’Connor, G Hally, C Casey; S O’Connor, A Casey, R Costigan; E Kendrick, L Casey; B Hickey, P O’Flaherty, S Murphy; P Whelan, D Lonergan, J McGrath.
Subs: E Donaghy for M O’Connor (blood, 18-20); Donaghy for O’Connor (34); N McKenna for S Murphy (52).
LOUGHMORE-CASTLEINEY: D Brennan; L Egan, W Eviston, T McGrath; T King, C McGrath, J Ryan; N McGrath, D Kennedy; A McGrath, C Hennessy, L Treacy; L McGrath, J McGrath, E Sweeney.
Subs: J Hyland for E Sweeney (48); J Meagher for L Egan (50); E Connolly for D Kennedy (58).
Referee: P Russell (Lattin-Cullen)
Coming through a battery of challenges, Cian Hennessy stuck over the equaliser for Loughmore-Casteleiney with two minutes of normal time remaining.
On the shortest day of the year, the final of the longest championship goes on for another week.
For such a prominent and successful club, it’s unusual that Loughmore-Castleiney don’t carry a jersey sponsor.
Pluses and minuses for both Declan Laffan and Tom McGlinchey. Loughmore may have been better using more than just one full forward when they had a first half wind.
Benny Hickey was in fine form for Cahir. Noel McGrath also performed well in a packed middle third.
In a scrappy affair, Paddy Russell had a difficult job but did most things right.
None shown but a couple of challenges merited it.
They go at it again next Sunday. Christmas cancelled?