ST THOMAS left Croke Park yesterday with a first All-Ireland club SHC title, while Kilcormac-Killoughey left with a wheelbarrow full of regrets.
The Offaly champions battled manfully against the odds to make it to St Patrick's Day but, yesterday, their All-Ireland hopes were left to the discretion of referee John Sexton and they paid the price ... heavily.
A 1-11 to 1-9 victory for St Thomas was the brass tacks of the afternoon but the story afterwards was all about Kilcormac's grievances. Both their midfielders, Damien Kilmartin and Killian Leonard, were dismissed by the Cork official in the final 10 minutes of a match which never had more than a couple of points in it.
Kilmartin went for a second yellow – the first of which could only be described as harsh – while Leonard's challenge on Darragh Burke was deemed sufficiently dangerous to warrant a straight red.
"We lost a couple of men and I don't know what kind of rules he was working off," bemoaned Kilcormac's manager Danny Owens afterwards. "The first yellow card for Davy Kilmartin was unbelievably hard. The second one, fair enough. But the first one wasn't.
"And I thought the sending off (of Leonard) was amazing. Look, I don't want to take anything away from St Thomas. They deserved the victory today and I will be in there congratulating them.
"And I don't want to whinge too much about the referee. But I thought we got a pretty bad deal. I did think it was a harsh red card. When you think of senior inter-county All-Ireland finals, there wouldn't be a second thought about it.
"Why don't the same rules apply everywhere? OK, it certainly was a yellow card. I agree with that. I have no problem with that. But fair play to Thomas. They're worthy champions."
Still, while St Thomas were undoubtedly the better team, they never made the game safe until the very end. That fact was partly attributable to stellar performances from Ger and Peter Healion, the brothers at the heart of the Kilcormac defence.
And partly St Thomas' wide count (14), which prevented them from ever putting distance between themselves and their dogged opponents.
Old warhorse Richie Murray scored 1-2, each one vital, while Conor Cooney hit 0-5 (3f) – the final pair eventually deciding the outcome when Kilcormac had been reduced.
SCORERS - St Thomas: C Cooney 0-5 (3f), R Murray 1-2, J Regan, B Burke, K Burke, A Kelly 0-1 each. Kilcormac-Killoughey: C Slevin 0-8 (7f, 1'65), T Fletcher 1-1.
ST THOMAS: P Skehill; S Skehill, Robert Murray, C Burke; E Tannion,
Darragh Burke, S Burke; K Burke, David Burke; B Burke, C Cooney, S Cooney; J Regan, Richie Murray, A Kelly. Subs: E Burke for Kelly (42), G Murray for B Burke (59).
KILCORMAC-KILLOUGHEY: Conor Slevin; J Grogan, G Healion, A McConville; K Grogan, P Healion, B Leonard; D Kilmartin, K Leonard; Ciarán Slevin, C Mahon, P Geraghty; J Gorman, T Fletcher, T Geraghty. Subs: M Leonard for Fletcher (55), C Guinan for P Geraghty (57).
WIDES - St Thomas: 14 (7 + 7). Kilcormac: 7 (3 + 4)
YELLOW CARDS - St Thomas: Darragh Burke (19), Seán Burke (41). Kilcormac: Kilmartin (15, 58), Mahon (20), B Leonard (57).
SENT OFF: K Leonard (51, straight red), Kilmartin (58, second\ yellow)
REF: John Sexton (Cork)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Richie Murray (St Thomas)