For the first time since their remarkable run of unbeaten county final appearances began in 2012, St Thomas left Pearse Stadium on Sunday without the Tom Callinan Cup in their possession.
This enthralling contest somehow ended deadlocked, Loughrea 0-20 to St Thomas' 1-17, thanks to Tiernan Killeen’s levelling point for Loughrea with the last puck of the game.
Killeen has been a regular, if infrequent, scorer throughout the championship, but he timed his score on this occasion to perfection, floating onto Neil Keary’s pass to score from the right wing after two long St Thomas’ clearances had failed to elicit a full time whistle.
This means that for only the third time since the turn of the century, a replay will be required to find out which team will be crowned senior county champions.
Having led for large spells, Loughrea may think they have missed their opportunity, but the team which scored last to force the previous two replays, Sarsfields (2015 ) and Clarinbridge (2010 ), both won at the second time of asking.
Loughrea could not have possibly dreamt of making a better start last Sunday, as Martin McManus’ hat-trick of points helped them into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead. St Thomas’ were on the ropes as Loughrea’s pace and power caught them off guard, but they steadied themselves the longer the half went on, despite playing into the wind.
Conor Cooney, Darragh Burke, and Eanna Burke hit important scores as Kenneth Burke’s charges clawed their way back to be just 0-9 to 0-7 behind after 20 minutes. Cooney’s free-taking was arrow-like into the wind, while Keary was also punishing St Thomas’ indiscretions at the other end.
Shane Cooney’s introduction at half time gave St Thomas’ further impetus, and when they only trailed by one at 14-13, it looked like an inevitable surge to a winning position was about to follow. Loughrea, however, dug deep and hit four of the next five points, despite losing Darren Shaughnessy to a second yellow card.
St Thomas’ hit back in stunning fashion, though, as Eanna Burke’s 53rd minute goal and subsequent point levelled the game. Jamie Ryan restored Loughrea’s lead, but St Thomas’ managed to level again and then take the lead for the first time in stoppage time through another Eanna Burke point. However, this score was cancelled out by Killeen’s heroic effort.
Loughrea: G Loughnane; J Coen, P Hoban, K Hanrahan; I Hanrahan (0-2 ), O Coyle (0-1 ), B Keary; J Ryan (0-1 ), T Killeen (0-1 ); Darren Shaughnessy, Dylan Shaughnessy (0-1 ), A Burns; N Keary (0-9, 8fs ), M McManus (0-4 ), J Mooney (0-1 ). Subs: S Sweeney for I Hanrahan (57 mins ), C Killeen for Dylan Shaughnessy (59 mins ), S O'Brien for Burns (59 mins ).
St Thomas': G Kelly; C Mahony, F Burke, C Burke; E Duggan, J Headd, M Caulfield; B Burke, David Burke; V Manso (0-1 ), C Cooney (0-9, 8fs ), Darragh Burke (0-2 ); D McGlynn, E Burke (1-4 ), O Flannery (0-1 ). Subs: S Cooney for Caulfield (30 mins ), B Farrell for Manso (45 mins ), C Headd for John Headd (57 mins ), D Finnerty for B Burke (62 mins ).
Referee : S Hynes.