Unbearable tension in Galway as Loughnane saves his club with stunning penalty save from the last puck
Gearoid Loughnane was the last gasp hero for Loughrea, as his stunning penalty save kept his club alive in the Galway senior hurling championship.
You can almost imagine the throat-cutting tension that swept through Duggan Park Ballinasloe as, with injury-time up, with the penalty given and with only one more puck left, the supporters of Sarsfields and Loughrea stood in silence.
Loughrea already had the game won but everyone knew that, in the grand scheme, that would count for nothing if Kevin Cooney hit the net because then, through the cruel and cut-throat realities of score difference, Sarsfields would have been in and Loughrea would have been out.
That was how close it came and with both teams' fate up in the air until the final puck, this was the Galway senior hurling championship at its riveting best.
Eventually, Loughnane came good to win the day for Loughrea and that was fitting because he has long been a brilliant player for his club. The stylish stick-man grew up as one of the most talented hurlers in the county, starring on under-14 and 16 Galway teams out the field. By minor level, Mattie Murphy had put him back in the goals and since he's been one of the best in the county.
He was at his best here as, with Cooney unleashing a pile-driver towards the top left corner, with the kids going wild behind the goals, with both sets of teams watching through their fingers, Loughnane shot across his line to make a brilliant diving save.
I think the Americans call these type situations “clutch moments”. Stunning save by Loughrea ‘keeper Gearoid Loughnane. A goal would have been enough to send his side out of the competition. Could be a huge moment this year’s Championship #galwayhurling #GAA pic.twitter.com/KclWXj77rt
— David Connors (@peterswellman) October 10, 2021
With that and despite winning the game by 0-24 to 0-18, Sarsfields were gone. In the end, it came down to just three points in score difference - had Cooney scored, Sarsfields would have been through on points scored - and you'd have to call it a harsh outcome on a club who won two out of their three group games.
Today, the New Inn club will surely be questioning the debatable system deployed in Galway where, with the qualifiers from the senior A and Senior B group stages coming together for the knock-out stages of one senior championship, the same amount of teams qualify from both grades. Surely, with twelve teams out of 24 qualifying, it should be a nine:three split to reward Senior A clubs rather than six:six, but that's the way it is and as they look ahead to next weekend's preliminary quarter final, Loughrea won't mind.
Neither will Gearoid Loughnane.