Watson steers Loughgiel to All-Ireland final

Loughgiel (Antrim) 0-27 Na Piarsiaigh (Limerick) 2-13 (aet)

Loughgiel (Antrim) 0-27 Na Piarsiaigh (Limerick) 2-13 (aet)

Liam Watson inspired Loughgiel to a place in the All-Ireland Club SHC final with a wonderful display of finishing at Parnell Park.

The Antrim star fired over 16 points to clinch an extra-time epic and set up a St patrick’s Day title decider against Coolderry of Offaly.

The Shamrocks could have had this game tied up in normal time, such was their supremacy, and with a six points lead, looked well on their way to their second final.

But Na Piarsaigh displayed courage and character to fight back and send a thrilling tie to added time with a stoppage time goal from Robert Sheehan.

The game started at a roaring pace, with both sides firing over early scores.

Shane O’Neill’s early point was cancelled out by scores from Loughgiel’s Liam Watson and Eddie McCloskey, and they were deadlocked on four occasions during the opening 13 minutes as David Breen and Cathal King swapped scores with McCloskey and Watson.

The Na Piarsaigh defence struggled to cope with the trickery of McCloskey and the brilliance of Watson, who stroked over his fifth score to open up a three points lead with 18 minutes played.

The Ulster men were very much in control as Watson thumped over a mammoth 80 metre free to give his side a six points advantage.

Late in the half, however, the Limerick men began to show what they were capable of with some slick hurling.

The Munster champions did have a goal chance when David Breen broke through to unleash a shot, which was brilliantly saved by DD Quinn.

But Breen did find the net in stoppage time, racing clear to fire a low shot past Quinn to the bottom corner.

Loughgiel led by 0-11 to 1-5 at half-time, and continued to impress in the early stages of the second half, with Joey Scullion angling over a point, and Watson hitting the target again.

The accuracy of Shane Dowling kept the Limerick champions in it, but it took them 25 minutes to register their first point from play in the second half, an excellent David Breen effort.

But that was to be the spark which ignited a remarkable late fightback which saw them rescue what had appeared to be a lost cause.

Robert Sheehan came off the bench to scramble home a stoppage time goal, and there was still time for Kevin Downes, with his first score of the afternoon, to steer over a dramatic equalising point, tying it up at 0-18 to 2-12.

The Ulster men once again seized the initiative, and two more Watson efforts helped them to a two points advantage, 0-21 to 2-13, midway through added time.

And their superior fitness came to the fore, with the second segment seeing Na Piarsaigh outscored by six points to nil.

Loughgiel: D Quinn, P Gillan, N McGarry, R McCloskey, J Campbell, M Scullion, J Campbell, B McAuley, M McFadden (0-1), L Watson (0-16, 9f, 1 ’65), D Laverty (0-2), E McCloskey (0-3), B McCarry (0-2), J Scullion (0-3), S Casey.

Subs: D McCloskey for Laverty, T McCloskey for McFadden, D Laverty for Casey

Na Piarsaigh: P Kennedy, D Lynch, K Breen, K Bermingham, A Dempsey, J O’Brien, B Hartnett, C King (0-1), P Gleeson (0-1), S Dowling (0-6, 4f, 2 ’65), D Breen (1-2), S O’Neill (0-1), K Kennedy, K Downes (0-1), K Ryan.

Subs: A Breen (0-1), K Breen, J Madden for Gleeson, R Sheehan (1-0) for O’Neill

Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).

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