In almost every championship-winning campaign, especially for clubs making a big breakthrough, there’s always one hugely significant moment.
On this occasion, had things worked out differently, the Clough-Ballacolla hurlers could have been out of the 2009 championship at the quarter-final stage and their 91-year wait for county final glory would have went on another year at least.
Having been badly beaten in the 2007 and 2008 semi-finals by Portlaoise, a quarter-final exit at the hands of an unfancied Mountrath side in 2009 would have left them in a very different position at the turn of the decade.
They had enjoyed great success at underage level and won two of the previous three league titles – but making the step up in the championship was a different story.
In that 2009 quarter-final against Mountrath, they were hot favourites and led by six points on two different occasions in the second half.
But Mountrath staged a great comeback and had a glorious chance to win it, but the final whistle was blown just as Joey Coogan was lining up to have a shot on goals in injury time.
“You talk about luck. We had luck in spades that year,” said Clough-Ballacolla’s captain that year Michael McEvoy on the recent LaoisToday Down Memory Lane Podcast.
“That quarter-final against Mountrath – we would have been tipped to get through that comfortably enough but we should have been beaten, there is no point in saying otherwise.
“The ball fell to Joey Coogan 40 yards out straight in front of the goals and it was blown up. (It was) an outrageous decision.”
“But you need that (luck) as well to win a final.”
Goalkeeper Danny Hanlon remember the same incident with the same sense of relief even now, 11 years later.
“Should have been (beaten), he said on the same podcast.
“I remember Joey Coogan caught the ball around 30 or 40 yards out in front of goal with nobody around him and for some strange enough reason or good luck, the referee blew the whistle and we got out of jail.
“We used our get out of jail card that night.”
“Were the Mountrath boys going mental,” asked presenter Steven Miller.
“Absolutely ballistic, and they had every right to go ballistic,” said Hanlon.
“It had probably gone over time a bit more than it should have but had it been the other way around we wouldn’t have been too impressed either. The sense of relief was just incredible.”
It finished Mountrath 3-12 Clough-Ballacolla 2-15 with Coogan’s second-half penalty and Matthew Rice’s second goal helping Mountrath back into contention.
A young Willie Dunphy scored 1-3 for Clough-Ballacolla that night while McEvoy was only returning from injury and only came on late in the game.
Having played most of his career in defence, he would start centre-forward in the replay under lights in O’Moore Park a couple of nights later as Ballacolla won 0-20 to 1-13.
And McEvoy stayed in attack for their semi-final win over Ballinakill and then famous final success over Portlaoise.
With the champions of the previous two years – Rathdowney-Errill and Camross – both beaten in the quarter-final, a Clough-Ballacolla loss could have set them back massively.
Instead they went on to reach their first final since the 60s, win their first title in 91 years and follow it up with further successes in 2011 and 2015.
Mountrath wouldn’t get a better chance again and were relegated to the intermediate grade a couple of years later.
You can listen to this week’s Down Memory Lane Podcast in full below.