Castlerea St. Kevin’s……………………………….1-8
Clann na nGael………………………………………..1-6
Hodson Bay Hotel Group Senior Football Championship (Section A)
Ian Cooney at Ballyleague
Are the sleeping giants stirring again? Nobody saw this train coming down the track as Castlerea deservedly ousted reigning champions Clann na nGael in terrible conditions at Ballyleague on Sunday afternoon. Both sides had to contend with driving rain and a difficult crosssfield wind. In such circumstances, the team that worked hardest was always likely to prevail. Castlerea won that contest with plenty to spare.
The result meant everything to their supporters afterwards who hailed their heroes as they departed the scene. It has been a challenging season for Nigel Dineen’s charges but the former Roscommon player and U-21 manager will hope that this scalp can kickstart their campaign.
The soul searching in Clann will be forensic this week ahead of Sunday’s meeting with St. Brigid’s. As county champions, one would expect the Johnstown-based side to parade a swagger but instead of embracing last season’s historic season, being the team to beat seems to be a burden, a noose around their necks that is stifling creativity and cohesion.
Manager Paul Curran may have felt that a few decisions went against his side but, in truth, he should be alarmed by the weight of expectation that seemed to be crippling his side. The decision to take Donie Shine off with 20 minutes remaining backfired. Shine’s radar had been anything but productive up to that point, but Clann needed someone to engineer a score to haul them back into contention when the game was slipping away. Instead they continued to run down cul-de-sacs, get bottled up by disciplined Castlerea defending and, consequently, became hugely frustrated.
Ruaidhri McManus, Shine’s replacement, goaled moments after entering the fray to give his side a two-point advantage. Despite being reduced to 14 men when David Flynn was shown a black card after picking up a yellow only two minutes earlier, it should have been the cue for Clann to stick their chests out and seal the deal.
But they wouldn’t score again in the final 16 minutes and a more measured Castlerea side picked them off with four scores in succession to record a famous win. Throw in the fact that the West Roscommon side coasted home without their talisman Ger Heneghan, who was shown a black card in the 42nd minute, and one expect Castlerea to derive huge confidence from this success.
Players like Fintan Kelly, Ronan Raftery and Christy Dineen stood up to the plate, the latter kicking five points on an awful afternoon for forwards. Kelly worked tirelessly for the cause and was on hand to find the net after five minutes when Ger Heneghan and Owen O’Connell easily sliced open the Clann rearguard.
Heneghan had registered the opening score of the game from a third minute free but Clann set about eroding the four-point deficit when Cathal Callinan bisected the posts from the right wing. The South Roscommon side were finding it tough to furrow a path through Castlerea’s defensive road block and they weren’t helped by eight first-half wides. Patience was required and when Jonathan Dunning was fouled after a sustained bout of possession, Donie Shine was hand to land the resultant free.
But two frees from Heneghan and Dineen in the 16 and 20th minutes settled Castlerea once more. Then Dineen landed another placed ball from 40 metre, after Heneghan was fouled, to leave five points between the sides.
But Clann enjoyed a lucrative spell just before the break with two points. Firstly, they had to work extremely hard to create a chance for Callinan who took on the responsibility and pointed with aplomb. Great last ditch defending by Kelly and Seán Ryan denied Clann further scores but there was still time for Cathal Shine (from play) and Donie Shine to add a free on the stroke of half time to leave their side 1-4 to 0-5 behind at the break.
Clann enjoyed the bulk of possession in the third quarter but they still struggled to make inroads, despite Callinan hitting the post as he worked his way in from the right wing. Then Jack Connaughton showed the forwards how it was done with a good score before McManus sneaked in behind Castlerea full-back Niall Collins and showed good composure to beat Geoffrey Claffey.
But Clann couldn’t push on. Ronan Raftery and Dineen restored parity with fine team scores before Dineen converted two frees in the last six minutes to guarantee a famous win.
CASTLEREA ST. KEVIN’S: G. Claffey; D. Flahive, N. Collins, E. Creighton; J. Kenny, J. Henry, H. Rooney; F. Kelly (1-0), R. Raftery (0-1); S. Ryan, O. O’Connell, R. Curran; Christy Dineen (0-5, four frees), D. McDermott, G. Heneghan (0-2, both frees). Subs used: Cathal Dineen for Kenny (29 mins), D. Quinn for Heneghan (42 mins, black card), D. Creighton for Ryan (52 mins)
CLANN NA NGAEL: R. O’Reilly; S. Pettit, S. Flynn, R. Gavin; J. Connaughton (0-1), D. Flynn, D. Pettit; G. Pettit, C. Shine (0-1); C. Callinan (0-2), D. Shine (0-2, both frees), D. Connaughton; C. McManus, U. Harney, J. Dunning. Subs used: F. Lennon for S. Pettit (26 mins), M. Scally for D. Connaughton (half-time), R. McManus (1-0) for D. Shine (40 mins), J. Fahy for Dunning (52 mins), R. Naughton for Scally (59 mins)
Wides: Castlerea St. Kevin’s – 2; Clann na nGael – 12.
Yellow Cards: Castlerea St. Kevin’s – Curran (37 mins), Cathal Dineeen (41 mins); Clann na nGael – G. Pettit (24 mins), Flynn (35 mins), C. McManus (45 mins), C. Shine (60 mins).
Black Cards: Castlerea St. Kevin’s – Heneghan (42 mins); Clann na nGael – Flynn (40 mins), Scally (59 mins).
Red Cards: Castlerea St. Kevin’s – none; Clann na nGael – none.
Referee: V. Hardiman.
Player of the Match: Fintan Kelly (Castlerea St. Kevin’s). No player stood out for either side but Kelly’s workrate was excellent throughout. He tracked back to prevent a certain Clann score in the first half and he also pitched in with his side’s crucial fifth minute goal.
Christy Dineen’s accuracy was commendable on a difficult afternoon for free-takers. Ronan Raftery, Joe Henry, Owen O’Connell and Ronan Curran were also prominent for the winners.
Best for Clann were Jack Connaughton, Ultan Harney (second half) and Cathal Callinan (first half).