by Shane Corrigan
at Kingspan Breffni
Shercock upset the odds against Ballyhaise at Kingspan Breffni this afternoon to claim their first intermediate football championship crown since 1984.
Francis McPhillips's side struck the all-important goals in what was an enthralling finale, with Lee Clarke's 56th minute major leaving them with one hand on the Tommy Gilroy Cup, but it was 'Man of the Match' Niall Clerkin that sealed the victory by earning an injury-time penalty all on his own for county colleague Killian Clarke to fire over and bring an end to the club's 33-year wait.
Colm Reilly's fine strike on 14 minutes looked to have things going according to script for Ballyhaise, but that man Clerkin had the ball in their net just two minutes later and the men from the Monaghan border kicked on for a 1-8 to 1-5 half-time lead.
The trailers had lost target man Padraig Moore through injury five minutes before the break but drew things level come the final quarter mark, despite missing a penalty in the second-half's opening minute.
Having bossed matters some 20 minutes after the resumption, Ballyhaise were only level through Kevin Tierney's seventh free of the afternoon and with the breeze at their backs Shercock timed their finish to perfection, doing away with the painful memories of four years ago against Killeshandra and delivering a long-waited triumph for the club in this competition.
Ciaran O'Malley's 4/7 favourites were up and running early in this decider with Tierney earning a free inside after just 35 seconds.
Ballyhaise's talisman pointed that one himself and they very nearly rattled the Shercock net on their next tour after David Brady was put through by a perfect pass from Moore but the Cavan U21 ace's effort came back off the inside of the upright.
Shercock were quick to clear the danger and it looked to be the early wake-up call they'd required, firing over the next three scores via Dean O'Reilly, Lee Clarke and Niall Clerkin to leave things level with 11 minutes on the clock.
Martin Conaty's free narrowed the gap to one and a minute shy of the quarter hour mark Ballyhaise would be back in the ascendancy after veteran Reilly cut in and blasted to the town side's net.
Undeterred, the Shercock response was superb. Damien McIntyre pointed in the very next minute and their livewire Clerkin kept his composure brilliantly to tuck away their first major on 16 minutes.
Tierney (free) narrowed the gap to one but the 2015 winners should have been back in front when Brady got put through for the net. Instead his low effort was cleared off the line brilliantly thanks to the endeavours of Shane Clarke.
A free from Killian Clarke sailed over at the other end before the Cavan captain shot a terrific point from distance on 25 minutes, which made it 1-6 to 1-3.
Ballyhaise lost full-forward Moore to injury in the same minute, replacing him with their match winner from the last day Michael Brady, as two more Tierney frees got erased by roaming wing back McIntyre and Killian Clarke (free) to make sure the margin stood at three come the break.
Whatever O'Malley said to his charges in the dressing room during the interval worked as they'd dominate large portions of the third quarter (and a bit more), winning a penalty a mere minute into the resumption.
Ollie Ward's spill in front of the Shercock posts saw Reilly fouled in his bid to steer the ball to the net, forcing referee Chris McCaffrey to wave horizontal arms.
Conaty slipped as he struck and the ball came back off the upper part of Ward's left hand post much to the relief of the leaders' vocal support.
Ballyhaise got things level the hard way instead, earning more frees for Tierney to point but they never got ahead and a well-read interception from Niall Clerkin led to Shercock's first point of the half on 54 minutes.
Having cut in from the right corner-forward position, Brady had the chance to square things again but his fisted effort fell wide off the post.
From Ward's resultant kick-out, Shercock strung together the best move of this gripping decider and in the end it was Lee Clarke that kept his head to shoot beyond Ballyhaise 'keeper Gary O'Rourke for all three points, inching his team that bit closer to a return to the senior ranks.
A Conaty free meant that Clarke's goal stood between the teams with two minutes to go but right on the hour Niall Clerkin all but ensured that the Tommy Gilroy Cup would be resting along the Monaghan border for the next 12 months.
On his own 45-metre line, the Cavan forward robbed Sean McCormack brilliantly and, with Ballyhaise's backs committed forward, took off in a one-on-one situation with O'Rourke to fire a low shot off the post and get hacked down while looking to tuck in the rebound.
The resultant penalty was clipped over by talisman Clarke before sub John McEnroe rounded off the historic win for McPhillips's men.
Shercock: Ollie Ward; Paul McIntyre, Liam Og O'Reilly, Shane Clarke; Damien McIntyre (0-2), Brian Sankey, Philip Clerkin, Micheál McEnaney, Killian Clarke (0-4, 2f, 1pen); Dean O'Reilly (0-1), Ryan Clerkin, Sean Magee; Niall Clerkin (1-2), Declan McIntyre, Lee Clarke (1-1). Subs: John McEnroe (0-1) for S Magee (43mins), Paddy McPhillips for D McIntyre (57), Daniel Clarke for D O'Reilly (60).
Ballyhaise: Gary O'Rourke; Darren Reilly, Mark Brennan, Stephen Kane; Desmond Reilly, Shane Briody, Marcus Duffy; Conor Lyons, Sean McCormack; Martin Conaty (0-2, 2f), Kevin Tierney (0-7, 7f), Aodhagan Watters; Colm Reilly (1-0), Padraig Moore, David Brady. Subs: Michael Brady for P Moore (25mins, inj), Barry Kelly for S Kane (42), Stephen Smith for C Reilly (57), Barry Reilly for D Reilly (58).
Ref: Chris McCaffrey (Templeport)