Defeat was devastatingly cruel on a Tooreen team who came so agonisingly close to a historic All-Ireland hurling final victory in Croke Park on Saturday night.
The Mayo and Connacht champions never trailed in this intermediate decider until the 54th minute but were made to settle for dying with their boots on, as Monaleen sneaked a 1-17 to 1-15 win at a bitterly cold GAA headquarters.
The Limerick men, to be frank, had played second fiddle to the brilliant Blue Devils for the majority of the contest but what separated the teams in the end were a couple of superb individual displays by Mark O’Dwyer and Donnacha O Dalaigh in the Monaleen attack.
O’Dwyer finished with seven points, his last an other-worldly effort from beneath the Hogan Stand to leave the scores tied at 1-13 apiece heading into the final seven minutes. O Dalaigh struck five points from play in the second-half having been held scoreless in the first-half by an inspired Tooreen defence.
The experience of Stephen Coyne, Michael Morley and David Kenny was shining through and provided the platform for the front men to send the Blue Devils into a 0-6 to 0-1 lead after fifteen minutes, the late inclusion of a fit-again Shane Boland serving as a huge fillip.
And even when hit by the concession of the game’s first goal, scored by Dan Power in the 20th minute, it took Liam Lavin only eight minutes to strike one back in response and at half-time, with Lavin and Sean Regan having both also hit two points apiece from play, it was Ray Larkin’s underdogs who led 1-9 to 1-7.
Reflecting back on their defeat however, Tooreen will rue the several missed chances of the third quarter where they failed to punish similar sloppiness by Monaleen. Shane Boland, Eoin Delaney and Sean Kenny each were wide of the target but with Fergal Boland and Cathal Freeman driving the team on superbly from around the middle, it was still the East Mayo men who held a 1-13 to 1-11 advantage entering the final ten minutes. But the inspirational O’Dwyer and O Dalaigh clicked onto gear for the Munster champions and although Freeman hit a 55th minute equaliser, Tooreen were unable to stop the tide of the Shannonsiders.
A bitter end to a beautiful season.