Late surge puts Castlehaven into U21 Final
A LATE surge which saw Castlehaven kicking five points to Clonakilty's single score in the last ten minutes, was enough to propel the Hoops into the final of the South West U21A Football Championship in this cracking semi-final in perfect conditions in Rosscarbery on Saturday last.
The building industry was the biggest victim of the recession but on Saturday we witnessed a one-man demolition job on Clonakilty's aspirations by outstanding full forward, Brian Hurley. Unmarkable at full forward, Hurley kicked 1-9, 0-4 from frees, the same total as the entire Clonakilty team. This was Hurley at his mercurial best and with Cork senior hurler, Damien Cahalane, providing the ammunition from midfield, Clon just had no answer to his dynamic right foot.
As the Jacobites said to the Williamites after the Battle of the Boyne: 'Change kings and we'll fight ye again,' so could Clon have said on Saturday, 'Change full forwards and we'll play ye again.'
Credit the Clon lads though. Although five points was a decisive margin in a tight contest, with eight minutes remaining Clon, having soaked up unceasing Haven pressure, had cut the Haven's lead to a single point and were shaping as likely winners when their top player, Thomas Clancy, went down injured and they lost their rhythm subsequently. The pendulum swung decisively in the Haven's direction after that stoppage in play. Crucial was the advantage Castlehaven had in physique, especially around the middle of the pitch with Damien Cahalane, Michael Dineen and Jack Nolan lording aerial affairs for most of the first half.
The pace and fluidity of the Haven's football for most of that half was simply breathtaking as Clon hung on grimly to their coat-tails. The wonder was that Clon actually led for most of the first half, thanks to a smashing goal by impressive wing back, Seán White, in the 4th minute, in answer to two early frees from the flying Brian Hurley.
That goal, plus some tremendous defensive play which often saw a dozen players behind the ball, saw the Clon lads hanging on as the Haven came at them in waves of attacks.
With James Davis, Bobby Nolan and Damien Cahalane driving forward from the rampant half back line, the Haven pounded the Clon back line but whereas Hurley was in devastating form, the rest of the Haven attack lacked a cutting edge. In fact Hurley was their only scorer in the first half as he kicked three more points, two from play in answer to fine scores from Clon's Barry O'Mahony, Clon's top forward over the hour, and midfielder Stephen Sheehy.
Amazingly, with 25 minutes gone, Clon were still a point to the good, 1-2 to 0-4, when Hurley kicked a levelling point. Despite having the onerous task of marking Hurley, Clon full back, Jack Barrett, made some timely clearances while Eoin Hartnett, Seán White and Stephen Fitzpatrick did some fine defending, with goalie, Conor O'Callaghan bringing off one great save from Hurley.
With the Haven lording the skies from the kickouts and Cahalane spraying some great long-range kicked passes in Hurley's direction, the inevitable goal finally came in the 28th minute as another long Cahalane drive saw Hurley, unmarked on the edge of the small rectangle, flicking the ball past the Clon goalie.
Battling Clon responded well with the dangerous Jonathan Leahy kicking the last point of the half and it was 1-5 to 1-3 in the Haven's favour at the break, when the Haven could have led by much more.
Numerous positional switches and the introduction of two subs saw Clon getting a fine start to the second half as Cork player, Thomas Clancy, and Stephen Sheehy finally gained a grip at midfield. Two minutes into the half Leahy was upended in the square for a Clon penalty but Haven goalie, Brian O'Donoghue, brought off a great save when he tipped Barry O'Mahony's piledriver over the crossbar.
That save seemed to inspire the Haven with John O'Regan and Stephen Collins impressing in the full back line and Michael Dineen looking strong around the middle. Points from Dineen and Hurley opened up a three-point gap, 1-7 to 1-4, and it seemed the Haven's physical advantage was wearing down the Clon side.
Stephen Sheehy cut through for a point for Clon but the Haven responded with a lovely angled score from Eoin Dennehy, much improved in the second half. When Hurley kicked another point, the gap was four as the third quarter drew to a close and there was a possibility of the Haven pulling away to a decisive win in what was a cracking game of football.
It was not to be as Clon hit their purple patch at the start of the final quarter. With Clancy winning his battle against a tiring Cahalane, well-aided by Sheehy, and Hurley forced to come out to centre forward to look for possession, Clon gained a firm grip on the game.
Young Jack O'Mahony was now flying at wing forward, with sub wing back, Martin Scally, impressing as well, and when Barry O'Mahony kicked two soaring points, sandwiching another from Gearóid Barry, who had switched very effectively to centre back, there was only a single point between the sides, 1-9 to 1-8, and Clon were firmly in the driver's seat.
Then came Clancy's unfortunate injury which saw him moving to full forward and out of the game, and the Haven regained their grip at midfield with Cahalane getting his second wind.
Inside him, Hurley, after a quiet ten minutes, sprang to life again and there was no holding him in the closing minutes as he kicked two points, one from play. The hardworking Dineen raised his second white flag as did Eoin Dennehy and Clon's only response was a pointed free from Jack O'Mahony.
The game was encapsulated in the 61st minute when Cahalane won possession for the Haven, played a one-two with Hurley and drove the leather between the uprights. The Haven's Dynamic Duo had finished in style as they advanced on a 1-14 to 1-9 scoreline to meet surprise packets, Bantry Blues, in the final.
While Clon were disappointed to suffer defeat in their first U21 semi-final in a long time, they can take great encouragement from this display by a very young side that did extremely well despite the clear physical differences between the sides.
The Haven will enter the final as hot favourites against Bantry and will pray that Brian Hurley stays clear of injury in the meantime as he is unmarkable on this form.
However, he will hope for a better scoring contribution from his fellow-forwards while the midfield battle between Bantry's formidable pairing and the Haven's Cahalane and Dineen will be eagerly looked forward to.
Referee: Tim Murnane, Goleen.
Scorers Castlehaven: Brian Hurley 1-9, 0-4 frees, Michael Dineen and Eoin Dennehy 0-2 each, Damien Cahalane 0-1. Clonakilty: Seán White 1-0, Barry O'Mahony 0-3, 0-1 penalty, Stephen Sheehy 0-2, Gearóid Barry and Jonathan Leahy 0-1 each, Jack O'Mahony 0-1 free.
Castlehaven: Brian O'Donoghue, John O'Regan, Stephen Collins, Adam Davis, James Davis, Bobby Nolan, Damien Cahalane, Michael Dineen, Jack Nolan, Darren Collins, Patrick O'Brien, Daragh O'Mahony, Daragh Leonard, Brian Hurley, Eoin Dennehy. Sub: Daragh Cahalane and Niall O'Leary.
Clonakilty: Conor O'Callaghan, Alan O'Sullivan, Jack Barrett, Eoin Hartnett, Danny Walker, Stephen Fitzpatrick, Seán White, Thomas Clancy, Stephen Sheehy, Jack O'Mahony, Gearóid Barry, Barry O'Mahony, Jonathan Leahy, Graham Murray, Gearóid Calnan. Subs: Ian Falvey, Martin Scally and Cian Crowley.
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