THEY played with the verve and free spirit of the Harlem Globetrotters when turning in a class performance during the opening half, but subsequently Dicksboro were made to look like Ragged Rovers before holding out for a nail-biting win in the intermediate hurling final at Nowlan Park.
If ever a team left a county final with serious regrets it was Mullinavat. They played the opposition up a stick during the closing half, but a staggering 11 wides, to take their tally to 15 in all, left them agonisingly short at the last whistle.
"We were made to earn that win," said smiling Dicksboro manager, Tommy Buggy afterwards. "This is a young Dicksboro team, and hopefully their best days are ahead of them."
The senior championship waits in 2011 following this, the club's third success at intermediate level. And in the immediately future comes the adventure in the Leinster club championship.
Young and talented Dicksboro most certainly are, but they gave their fans in the 5,028 crowd on Sunday a roller coaster ride. The majesty of their hurling during the opening half drew gasps of appreciation from the entire crowd, and they weren't at all flatter by a healthy interval lead of 1-8 to 0-5.
Indeed, they could easily have been two goals better off.
Made look second class
Mullinavat may have been made look second class, but after the rest they nailed down the opposition and proceeded to dominate. Their half back line of Damien Aylward, he was magical, Walter Burke and Michael Malone dominated completely.
On top of that, the 'Boro hardly got a look in at midfield where Conor Conway turned on the power and did fantastic work to try and drive his team to victory. Willie O'Dwyer was wonderful too. But sadly for them, Mullinavat couldn't find the target often enough.
After nine minutes of the second half they had shot five wides. The 'Boro were hanging on, desperately it must be added, to a 1-9 to 1-6 lead.
As the game edged into the last quarter the Mullinavat wides tally hit nine. The difference was still three points (1-10 to 1-7).
Their luck, poor shooting or whatever way you want to put it, didn't improve. A minute into injury-time the losers missed a handy enough free from 50 metres, the ball going across the face of goal and wide.
Dicksboro conceded the final score to Dinny Butler, a point in the 62nd minute, which made the miss from the free moments earlier all the more costly. It was that sort of miserable, unlucky, disappointing day for Mullinavat.
The losers opened with all guns blazing and within 100 seconds Nicky Anthony and Michael Murphy had thrown over points. The breeze assisted 'Boro then hit the go switch and before the third minute was reached they had turned the tables and were 0-3 to 0-2 in front thanks to scores from Adrian Stapleton, Cillian Buckley and Eddie O'Donoghue (free).
Things got better
Things got even better for the winners in the seventh minute when they put together the move of the match. It ended with the scoring of a lovely goal. The ball was moved at pace from in front of their own goal by Darren Tyrrell, on to Dan Kenny and then on to wing-back Michael Fagan, who aimed a diagonal ball into the left corner at the county end.
Adrian Stapleton snapped up the arriving sliotar, beat his man and planted the ball in the bottom left corner of the net. To add to that, O'Donoghue converted a free to leave Mullinavat 0-2 to 1-3 down. The 'Boro were flying.
The hurling of Cillian Buckley and Danny Kenny was brilliant, text book stuff. Enda Malone showed beautiful strick work and was wonderful in touch, movement and vision, and he continued to play to the same high standard throughout the hour. The striking and placing of sideline 'cuts' by Michael Fagan was as any coach would want it, and Derek O'Gorman was hurling up a fair storm too.
Up front there was a threat about everything Adrian Stapleton did, and to a lesser extent Eddie O'Donoghue, and Paul O'Flynn was winning ball in the air and getting in charges at goal that looked really threatening for the 'Vat.
Turning into the second quarter the 'Boro were 1-5 to 0-2 clear. Minutes earlier 'Vat goalie James Culleton had done well when killing a goal chance on Cillian Starr and on 18 minutes O'Flynn prodded the ball wide from no more than three metres after Starr knocked down a delivery from O'Donoghue.
Had the 'Boro turned those chances into goals it would have been game over. Still, there was an awful lot to admire about their hurling when they went in for the rest leading by 1-8 to 0-5, even after registering seven wides.
Didn't mess about
The losers didn't mess about in the new half. They took over from the start after Conor Conway pointed a free within 50 seconds. The 'Boro produced a reply through Cillian Starr after Ollie Walsh created the opening, but Mullinavat caught such a hold on the match the opposition rarely got within threatening distance of the opposing posts.
In the 36th minute Conor Conway aimed in a free from midfield, and the ball appeared to come off a defender and sailed into the net (1-9 to 1-6). The 'Vat were on top, but their shooting was awful.
Moments after the losers posted their fifth wide Derek O'Gorman but through a gap to shoot a 'Boro point after O'Donoghue had dug out possession. Conway posted a reply. By the time Damien Aylward registered the losers' next score in the 47th minute (1-10 to 1-8) they had shot wides eight and nine.
A wonderful Nicky Anthony minor from 80 metres sliced the divide to two points and Dicksboro were under serious, serious pressure. They needed something special to lift them. O'Flynn provided it.
He won a ball in the air on the '40', driven from his own defence. He galloped up the left wing before lay-off an inch perfect pass inside to Adrian Stapleton as the cover closed in. Stapleton lashed to the net from nearly 20 metres (2-10 to 1-9).
Mullinavat didn't have time for the disappointment or shock to sink in. They had the ball in the net within 30 seconds. Paddy Raftice took the honours. Within a minute, ten from the end, they shot their 10th wide.
In a very rare 'Boro attack, sub Tom Manning out-foxed the cover but his tame shot from the right was easily dealt with by goalie Culleton. Not long afterwards Derek O'Gorman was gifted possession from a Mullinavat puck-out and he arrowed the ball back in and over the bar (2-11 to 2-9).
Michael Murphy and O'Donoghue, in that order, traded minors as the game galloped towards the finish with Mullinavat chasing furiously. After that O'Donoghue score the losers missed a decent chance from a free before landing one point.
In the end the minimum divided them. Was it that Dicksboro were lucky or Mullinavat unlucky? Both camps will argue their case vehemently until the end of time.
Others who did well for the winners were Sam Morrissey and the balance of the defence, Philip Hogan, Darren Tyrrell and Kieran Cuddihy. Other good ones for the 'Vat were Seamus Farrell, Dinny Butler and Michael Murphy.
Dicksboro – Sam Morrissey, Darren Tyrrell, Kieran Cuddihy, Philip Hogan, Michael Fagan, Danny Kenny, Enda Malone, Cillian Buckley, Derek O'Gorman, Martin Gaffney, Eddie O'Donoghue (capt), Ollie Walsh, Cillian Starr, Paul O'Flynn, Adrian Stapleton. Subs – Tom Manning for Starr; Shane Maher for O'Gorman; Conor O'Loughlin for Stapleton.
Mullinavat – James Culleton, Tony Duggan, Seamus Farrell, Joe Fennelly, Damien Aylward, Walter Burke, Michael Malone, Ian Duggan, Conor Conway, Michael Farrell, Dinny Butler, Willie O'Dwyer (capt), Nicky Anthony, Michael Murphy, Jamie Fennelly. Subs – Paddy Raftice for I. Duggan; Padraig Gahan for M. Farrell; Andrew McGovern for Jamie Fennelly.
Referee – D. Connolly (Mooncoin).