Five points down going into five minutes of additional time, Moorefield’s game looked lost.
Five points up, St Loman’s looked to be on their way to claiming a first provincial senior crown only for the game to change utterly.
An Eanna O’Connor 59th minute free marginally cut the difference to five points but it was Ronan Sweeney’s goal two minutes into the extra period that transformed the mood of the O’Moore Park stand. Benefitting from a great James Murray interception, veteran Sweeney kept his cool to shoot low past Jason Daly.
O’Connor followed that up with another free, prompted by a foul which earned Paul Sharry a second yellow card after Ken Casey had made way three minutes earlier for a black card trip. Moorefield, like they did in the first half, were mauling Lomans’ kick-out and it was O’Connor who levelled the game up from play shortly afterwards.
O’Connor was then given the chance to win the decider when a free was brought up 10 metres to the 45m line. While his attempt fell short, Sweeney was alert to keep the ball alive and squared to Kevin Murnaghan who twisted and turned to deliver the winner and complete a remarkable recovery.
“It looked dead and buried, let’s call a spade a spade,”acknowledged Moorefield manager Ross Glavin. “It looked dead and buried.
“But one thing that the group of players have is belief and a never-say-die attitude.
“I know it’s easy saying that now but it’s no coincidence. It’s not the first time we’ve won games like this. The Portlaoise game, even though it was a lot tighter and less scoring, it still kind of looked like maybe a step too far for us but, again, they never gave up and momentum swung.
“I think they (St Loman’s) lost their discipline in the last eight minutes. Their game management at that stage probably was poor even though it was immaculate for the first 25 minutes of the second half. They lost their discipline and in sport momentum is massive.”
Beaten Loman’s boss, former Moorefield manager Luke Dempsey, was just as honest in revealing his thoughts.
“The players inside are shell-shocked. I suppose I’m shell-shocked myself. It was the last few minutes of the match, like any sporting occasion, you have no control from the sideline — we had players coming off and being sent off.
“We ran in subs as we thought but ultimately it was probably James Murray, who had a magnificent game all day, he nipped in to a wayward pass and that set up Ronan Sweeney, who was also magnificent. And he tucked it away.
“As in any sport, if you get a goal that late you have the momentum. And then when I saw there were to be five minutes of injury-time, I thought ‘this is going to go to the wire’ which it did. Moorefield have that never-say-die attitude, they’ve had it all year – 13 against 15 in the county final. They just have that never-say-die attitude.”
Moorefield had been the better team in the first half as evidenced by the half-time scoreline that read three points in their favour, 0-7 to
0-4. Loman’s had dominated possession early on but Moorefield were successful in absorbing a lot of their attacks and breaking for scores. Four points on the trot between the 19th and 23rd minutes paved the way for their advantage as David Whyte was ensuring John Heslin’s presence was not being felt too much.
But inside the first six minutes of the second half, Loman’s were level and fired into the lead in the 37th minute when Ken Casey benefitted from a defensive mix-up to tuck the ball to the net.
Heslin was figuring more and a superb team goal finished by Ronan O’Toole in the 54th minute appeared to have won the game for them, one which began with Sharry delivering accurately from deep to substitute Kieran Lynam whose pass was just as good to O’Toole who linked up with David Windsor and Casey prior to finding the net.
At that stage, Moorefield’s cause looked lost. “We never came out of the dressing room,” admitted Sweeney.
“We were comfortable going in at half-time I thought. In the first half we were in control of the game I thought, we put them under a lot of pressure on their kick-outs. But they got the ball away a little easier, I don’t know whether our work rate dropped or whatever. They played well in fairness, they took their chances well, we found it hard to get the ball off them. I think we panicked a little bit when we went a few points down.”
Ultimately, though, it was Moorefield who didn’t panic and St Loman’s who did. Both realities will long in the memory for those involved.
E O’Connor (0-8, 5 frees); R Sweeney (1-1); J Murray (0-2); D Whyte, E Heavey, K Murnaghan (0-1 each).
K Casey, R O’Toole (1-2 each); J Heslin (1 free), P Sharry (0-2 each); K Reilly, S Dempsey (0-1 each).
J Daly; N O’Toole, J O’Toole, G Grehan; G Glennon, P Dowdall, D Whelan; P Sharry, J Heslin; D Windsor, R O’Toole, K Reilly; K Casey, S Flanagan, S Dempsey.
K Lynam for S Flanagan (29); C Reilly for N O’Toole (33); C Kilmurray for D Whelan (55); B O’Loughlin for K Casey (black, 59); S Flynn for D Windsor (60+1).
P Sharry (60+2, second yellow).
T Kinsella; S Healy, L Healy, L Callaghan; K. Murnaghan, J Murray, M Dempsey; D Flynn (c), A Masterson; D Whyte, E Heavey, I Meehan; E O’Connor, R Sweeney, N Hurley-Lynch.
A Mullins for I Meehan (40); S Dempsey for L Callaghan (55).
B Tiernan (Dublin).