Kilmallock boss Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughlin bridged a 20-year gap for the Limerick club as his players delivered the Munster senior hurling title in his first season in charge, defeating Cratloe 1-32 to 3-18 after extra-time at the Gaelic Grounds yesterday.
The Limerick men had to dig deeper than in their Munster semi-final extra-time clash against Cork champions Sarsfields as they lost arguably their strongest leader, Gavin O'Mahony, to a straight red card in the 48th minute, after an off-the-ball incident.
For a third successive game in the championship, Cratloe were seeking to close out against opponents reduced to 14 men, so Kilmallock's resolve was even more impressive as the decider yielded 51 scores.
It was epic, watched by a crowd of 6,365, especially in the last quarter of normal time. The last 12 minutes alone threw up 2-11 as the lead swayed back and forth, Jake Mulcahy's goal on 55 minutes giving Kilmallock a two-point lead, 1-18 to 2-13, before the pendulum swung the other way four minutes later when Conor McGrath finished to the net.
From there Cratloe might have expected to close it out but Jake Mulcahy struck for another point before his brother Graeme stitched what looked like a winner in injury-time, but Cratloe midfielder Martin Ogie Murphy fired over from about 70 metres to force extra-time. That was a bridge too far for Cratloe, as Kilmallock, restored to 15 men with the introduction of Paddy O'Loughlin for O'Mahony, pressed hard and outscored their tiring opponents by 0-11 to 0-3 over both periods.