'We're shellshocked because we had it won but didn't win'
Moorefield 1-14 St Loman's 2-10
Through all the wild hysteria, it was difficult to gauge which group were in a more pronounced state of shock yesterday afternoon in Portlaoise - the people of Moorefield or those of St Loman's.
The Newbridge contingent celebrated on the pitch in O'Moore Park like they'd been given a last-second pardon from execution.
The denizen of Mullingar wore the dazed look of army veterans who had seen too much.
"It looked dead and buried. Let's call a spade a spade. It looked dead and buried," said Moorefield manager, Ross Glavin shaking his head at the absurdity of it all.
And it did. Six points adrift with six minutes to play? Five down in injury-time? That's dead and buried in anyone's language.
And yet you couldn't be fully sure which team were more responsible for all the late, madcap drama. What is certain to sting all involved in St Loman's over the winter is just how complicit they were in their own downfall.
"The players inside are shell-shocked," confirmed their manager, Luke Dempsey afterwards.
"I suppose I'm shell-shocked myself."
For 29 minutes of the second-half yesterday, they ran all over Moorefield.
From three down at half-time - and lucky to be so close at that - they went three up within eight minutes of the restart.
Moorefield's forwards, sprightly and menacing in the first half, were starved of possession.
Indeed the entire Moorefield team spent large periods of the second half pinned into their own half, trying desperately to win their own kick outs and relieve the pressure.
Ken Casey and Ronan O'Toole tore them to shreds at times and when the latter struck for their second goal in the 54th minute to put Loman's six up, it had the feel of a defining moment.
Then, inexplicably, they melted. The atmosphere in O'Moore Park had transformed into Loman's post-match revelry, the inevitable conclusion.
And when Casey was black- carded for a foot trip on Aaron Mullins in the 58th minute, it barely registered as being significant.
"You'd be thinking it was the right decision at the time, a point here. Once we didn't concede a goal," Dempsey noted.
On 59 minutes, they still led by five points and when Paul Sharry walked for a second yellow after a deliberately high challenge, it only ever felt like collateral damage - a smart play in the circumstances.
Indeed, it was fully two minutes into injury-time before anyone in O'Moore Park even dared think the Leinster title wasn't heading to Mullingar. At that moment, James Murray - Moorefield's brilliant cente-back - went steaming through and though his pass forced Ronan Sweeney backwards, the veteran's shot found the net.
"They probably sat down a little bit and allowed us to come at them," Sweeney reckoned afterwards.
Suddenly, St. Loman's were under real pressure and a man down, they couldn't win their own kick-out. Couldn't earn any respite.
Éanna O'Connor scored his seventh and eight points of the match to level it and just as we presumed extra time was coming, Moorefield - amazingly - got their winner.
When they were awarded a free some 55 metres out, referee Barry Tiernan moved it to within range after Loman's substitute, Billy O'Loughlin moved the ball from where O'Connor had placed it by kicking it backwards.
And though the Kerry native's free was poorly struck, Sweeney managed to palm the ball back into play where - incredibly - Kevin Murnaghan had both time and space, despite being just 10 metres or so out from the Loman's goal - to spin and split the uprights.
"I think they lost their discipline in the last eight minutes," Glavin, a player wh en Moorefield won their last Leinster title in 2006, reckoned.
"Their game-management at that stage probably was poor, even though it was immaculate for the first 25 minutes of the second half.
"They lost their discipline and in sport, momentum is massive. And they had it for most of the half.
"And when they lost it and we got it, then it looked like we were going to come back."
For Loman's, the post-mortem won't be pleasant.
"It's beyond our expectations to get to a Leinster final and we've done that and we've played so well," as Dempsey ruefully pointed out.
"The reason why we're shell-shocked is, we had it won and we didn't win."