A dank winter’s afternoon it might have been, but for Borris-Illeigh people in the 7,250 crowd in Semple Stadium, it’s a day that will always shine brightly Borris’ ended a 33-year wait for a senior title, an eternity for such a proud club, with a gritty win over Kiladangan.
The men in maroon and white had to dig in and grind out a narrow victory, but over the hour they were just about the better side.
“The ground is very greasy, and it is a final, we all understand that finals aren’t won easy," said Borris' manager Johnny Kelly after the game.
"We had to stay at it and dig it out. We showed great character."
The game didn’t benefit from the conditions, a gloomy afternoon and greasy turf making Semple Stadium unrecognisable from the crucible it becomes during high summer, and both teams’ first touch suffered as a result.
Kiladangan almost had a dream start - seconds after the opening whistle Tadhg Gallagher came close to a goal - but the game quickly became a stop-start encounter, with neither team able to establish momentum.
Borris-Illeigh would hit more wides in that opening half but that in itself indicated their competitiveness. Anchored by Brendan Maher’s customary excellence at centre-half, they kept Kiladangan at bay in defence, while more than once in the first half they came close to a breakthrough.
By contrast, Kiladangan were reliant on Willie Connors’ accuracy from frees to stay in touch, and the blue and gold couldn't get Billy Seymour into the game.
Borris’ were worth their lead - they were able to score from range through Brendan Maher and Dan McCormack as well as via a dangerous full-forward line - when the game swung their way.
On 27 minutes James Devaney - who had already hit two good points - won possession on the left-wing and soloed through: his initial shot for goal was beaten back but the rebound fell to the corner-forward again, and his first-time pull found the corner of the net.
He and Connors (free) swapped points in first-half injury time and Borris-Illeigh were well worth their 1-9 to 0-7 lead.
The lights were turned on in the stadium at half-time and there may be some kind of pun worth trying here, because Kiladangan were brighter on the resumption as well.
After another Devaney point a long delivery broke kindly for Dan O’Meara inside the Borris’ 20-metre line, and the Kiladangan forward kept his head to finish calmly: 1-10 to 1-7.
Brendan Maher responded for Borris with another free but then Kiladangan faltered, hitting three wides in a row.
Still, Borris’ were dropping back and struggling to make the ball stick up front. Willie Connors kept the scoreboard ticking over and Kiladangan were staying in reach. They needed a goal, and a golden opportunity presented itself turning into the final quarter.
Sub Sean Hayes won a penalty for them and ‘keeper Barry Hogan trotted upfield to strike it. Borris’ keeper James McCormack saved brilliantly, and though Connors pointed the resulting 65, their momentum had stalled.
They came close again - a ball which looked to be heading over the line was cleared in desperation by Borris’ defender Liam Ryan, and Kiladangan sub Andy Loughnane cut the lead to two with five left.
Jerry Kelly pointed for Borris and Connors responded with a sideline, but Brendan Maher’s late free from distance put three between them as the sixtieth minute approached. His leadership was vital in the closing stages as Borris’ held out for that emotional victory.
“We saved a penalty,” said manager Kelly afterwards.
“Luck was on our side to be fair, we got away with them, but that happens. I haven’t really had time to digest it, to be honest, though we could probably argue we were through on goal and took the wrong option - we went for a hand pass when we should have shot for goal ourselves.
“So these things balance each other out. You need heart, determination, bottle, and no little commitment.”
You do. And Borris’ had them all.
Scorers for Borris-Illeigh: J. Devaney (1-4); J. Kelly, K. Maher (frees) B. Maher (2 frees) (0-3 each); N. Kenny, D. McCormack (0-1).
Scorers for Kiladangan: W. Connors (5 frees, 1 65, 1 sideline)(0-7); D. O’Meara (1-1); P. Flynn (0-2); T. Gallagher, A. Loughnane (0-1).
BORRIS-ILLEIGH: J. McCormack, S. Burke, P. Stapleton, L. Ryan, S. McCormack (jc), B. Maher, R. McCormack, T. Ryan, D. McCormack, K. Maher, N. Kenney, C. Kenny (jc), K. Maher, J. Kelly, J. Devaney.
Subs: J. Hogan for T. Ryan (55).
KILADANGAN: B. Hogan, D. Sweeney, J. Quigley, F. Hayes, D. McGrath, A. Flynn, D. Moran, J. Loughnane, J. Horan, D. O’Meara, W. Connors, J. Gallagher (c), T. Gallagher, P. Flynn, B. Seymour.
Subs: M. Minehan and S. Hayes for McGrath and Loughnane (both HT); A Loughnane for J. Gallagher (inj, 51); B. McLoughney for T. Gallagher (59).
Referee: F. Horgan (Knockavilla Donaskeigh Kickhams).