Casement SC Antrim Junior Hurling Championship, quarter-final (AET)
Gort na Móna 3-21 Rasharkin 2-23

IF drama is your thing, you've come to the right place as twice Gort na Móna came back from the dead to firstly force extra-time and then grab a last-gasp winning goal at the expense of Rasharkin at Enright Park on Saturday.

Ultimately, it was substitute Manas McMullan who proved the hero, somehow steering the loose sliotar through a ruck of players to the net when only goal would do in the dying seconds of this game.

And yet there was absolutely zero indication of what was coming down the tracks at half-time with Rasharkin nine up having dominated the opening 30 minutes, but what would follow was quite remarkable with the Gorts replying to give themselves a fighting chance despite taking just 0-1 from two penalties before Dessie McClean struck with a last-gasp goal of his own to force extra-time.

Then, despite grabbing the initiative, they were hit with one themselves late on as it appeared Rasharkin had pulled it out of the fire but there would be that last twist in the tail.

Both sets of players ran themselves into the ground, throwing themselves into challenges and giving every last drop of energy they had into what turned into a rip-roaring affair. 

The visitors were off the mark when Tiernan O'Boyle launched a missile of a free from deep in his own half and then Conor McKeever added another.

It would get even better for Rasharkin six minutes in as a superb ball put McKeever in and the lashed high to the net.

It took until the eighth minute for Gort na Móna to get on the board through a McClean free and he would add another in reply to McKeever. 

But the hosts were struggling to make a great deal of headway in attack with Rasharkin dropping deep and suffocating space, while they were also sharper at the other end with a bit more space as Danial Hasson and O'Boyle launched long-range scores either side of a McKeever free.

Darron Boyd finally had the Gorts' first from play after 20 minutes, while Donagh Quinn and Nail Healy traded, but the St Mary's men were extending the gap with James Higgins hitting two on the run either side of another from McKeever.

Points from Neill Henry and Patrick McCaffrey - his second of the opening period - trimmed the gap back, but another free from McKeever gave Rasharkin a fairly healthy 1-13 to 0-7 lead at the interval.

But things would change dramatically after the break as the Gorts, now playing down the slope, roared into the game.

There was a noticeable increase in intensity and they set the tone from the throw-in as Nathan Gibson slung just inside the post seconds in.

Gort na Móna's Darron Boyd challenges Conor Doherty

Gort na Móna's Darron Boyd challenges Conor Doherty

This proved a sign of intent with Declan Hughes next to register, but then came a big moment on 35 minutes as Patrick McCaffrey was upended inside the area and a penalty was awarded. McClean blasted past Liam Tunney, but the goal was chalked off and the ball thrown in as referee Niall Clifford adjudged the Gorts' talisman was struck the ball beyond the 20-meter line.

It didn't halt the momentum as McClean tapped over a free shortly after and Boyd pointed to whittle the gap back to five.

Now it was Rasharkin struggling to get anything going in attack, but they seemed to be managing the gap with Shane Hasson, Conor McFerran and McKeever responding to Gort na Móna points as that gap remained despite losing goalkeeper Tunney to injury.

His replacement, Kevin McLernon would then be called into action as the Turf Lodge men were awarded a second penalty in the 53rd minute when David Dixon was trailed back. Again, McClean stood over it, but McLernon produced a great reflex stop to tip it over for a point.

McClean would narrow the gap back to that goal from a free with the game now in added time, but when Conor McFerran split the posts from a tight angle at the other end, it seemed that might be it. Not so.

McClean brought it back to a goal again from a free and then seven minutes deep into time added on, the levelling goal came as McCaffrey did well to gather on the right and floated an inviting ball into the danger zone where McClean read the flight and rose to bat home and force extra-time with the sides locked at 1-17 apiece.

Early points were traded as play resumed before what seemed a big moment after seven minutes as McClean zipped a pass to Michael Carlin who in turn popped a pass into the area with Neill Henry this time doubling on the ball to crash home.

Rasharkin responded well as McKeever, Connor McKillop and Donagh Quinn points in quick succession to level, but McClean would edge his side into a 2-19 to 1-21 lead at the change of ends when he jinked and sent a shot over from out on the right sideline.

Patrick McCaffrey lets fly with a shot

Patrick McCaffrey lets fly with a shot

Patrick McCaffrey would double the advantage early with his fifth of the day, but then came the Rasharkin charge with a pair of McKeever frees levelling and then on 19 minutes, it seemed they had won it with a free dropping into the mixer and McKillop whipped on the loose ball to rattle the net.

McClean hit back with a pointed free to leave two in it and the hosts needing to find another goal to save themselves yet again.

And true to form for this game, it would arrive right at the death as a 65 was floated in and seemed to be carrying over the bar, but was batted down and with a swarm of players all frantically looking to gather, McMullan pulled and somehow the ball went all the way through ruck of bodies and nestled in the corner of the net.

That was that as the whistle sounded immediately, the contrasting emotions of manic celebrations and utter dejection there for all to see as Gort na Móna snatched victory in the morse dramatic of fashions to move into a semi-final with Armoy.

GORT NA MÓNA: J Kelly; C Healy, C Devlin, C Connolly; G McKenna, P McHugh, N Gibson (0-1); N Henry (1-1, 0-1 free), A Hicks; D McClean (1-9, 0-7 frees, 0-1 penalty), P McCaffrey (0-5), D Hughes (0-1); N Henry (0-1), D Dixon, D Boyd (0-2).
Subs: M Carlin for D Dixon (60+1), M McMullan (1-0) for N Healy (60+1), E Loughran (0-1) for A Hicks (60+1)

RASHARKIN: L Tunney; C Doherty, D Doherty, C McKillop (1-1); T O'Boyle (0-2, 1 free), R O'Boyle, D McKay; S Hasson (0-1), J Higgins (0-2); D Quinn (0-2), A McKeever, C Henderson; C McFerran (0-3), C McKeever (1-11, 0-11 frees), D Hasson (0-1).
Subs: K McLernon for L Tunney (40), E McFerran for D Hasson (46), C Donaghy for D McKay (60+2), C Maria for A McKeever (60+5).
ET subs: D McKay for E McFerran (15), C Higgins for C Henderson (17)

REFEREE: Niall Clifford (Armagh)