A SURREAL day in Parnell Park. A blinding sun hung above the dressing-room all afternoon yet the hurling was wintery.
By the end, bodies
and scattered all over the pitch, like a closing scene from Apocolypse Now.
And Kilmaucd Crokes had won in extra-time.
"Well thank God for extra-time. I don't think we'd be able to survive another day," said Ollie Baker, the Crokes boss of Clare provenance, surveying the collateral damage of a 0-23 to 0-22 win over Laois hurling champions, Rathdowney/Errill. "Rathdowney just threw everything at us and we were lucky, we were fortunate."
Baker knows better than anyone that you make your own luck, though the fact that his team necessitated the use of extra-time for the second time in just over a week doesn't necessarily mean they won in similar circumstances.
Whereas they bought themselves a Presidential pardon from execution with two points in injury-time in the county final last Friday week against St Jude's, here Crokes held comfy-looking leads of four points at half-time and again with ten minutes to play.
Yet it was Rathdowney who had two chances - both snatched and errant - to win in normal time.
Crokes also had Matt Collins, their clockwork-reliable goalkeeper, to thank for a couple of saves from good Rathfowney goal chances. And the crossbar for repelling another.
"Look, that's what goalies are there for," reasoned Baker.
"That's what they're there to do.
"We won't over-praise him or under-praise him. And we won't kill him if he let in a goal either.
"Everyone has a job to do on the field and if everyone does their job, it makes life a bit easier. It shares the burden."
Their captain, Seánie McGrath certainly didn't shirk his vocation and the 0-15 scored, though heavily reliant on placed balls (14) were of wildly varying degrees of technical difficulty and under the heavy pressure such a tight game generates. And it was obvious from early on that Rathdowney Errill weren't simply coming for a look.
They beat Camross by 17 points in the Laois final although Mark Kavanagh, the teenage forward who scored 1-6 in that game, was held to nothing from Jamie Clinton and subbed.
They did, however, have Ross King at full-forward and he scored all of 13 points, three from play.
Naturally, there was rust from Crokes and they lost both wing-backs, Cian MacGabhann and BIll O'Carroll to injury but a 0-11 to 0-7 half-time lead looked like the sort of situation from which they could expand.
Instead, Rathdowney just kept competitive and in Paddy Purcell, had the most dynamic player in the game on the day.
He scored two points but set up substitute Eoin Burke to put a point in it with injury time to play and when King nailed a free, it was level and extra-time beckoned - but not until King and Purcell both botched potential winners.
"I tell you, we were in disarray at certain times," Baker admitted.
"But we eeked out a victory, maybe, out of the jaws of defeat again."
Therein, McGrath hit three frees before going off injured and Ross O'Carroll popped up with a score from play.
They led by two at the last turn-around of the day and in the second period, sub Conor Clinton slotted one before Caolan Conway filled in on freetaking duties.
Rathdowney hit the last two points of the day but time ran out for them.
"They took their opportunities and they just got one more point than we got today," said Rathdowney manager, Conor Gleeson.
It was that simple.