UCC claim their tenth title
APART perhaps from the fact that they didn't do themselves justice, Castlehaven can have no complaints about the outcome of last Sunday's County Senior Football Championship final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Following a sparkling performance against Carbery Rangers in the semi-final, they went into the match as fairly warm favourites, and it was expected that if they reproduced the level of intensity which had hallmarked their play last time out, UCC wouldn't be able to cope.
As things transpired, Castlehaven failed dismally to put their best foot forward, particularly in the first half, at the end of which they trailed by 0-8 to 0-4.
With a stiffish breeze behind them, they did make a determined bid to overhaul the students in the second half, but even then they struggled to function with any real conviction, relying primarily on Mark Collins' accuracy from frees, some of which were questionable, to nibble away at the deficit.
For all that, they appeared to be on course for a fourth title, and a first since 2003, after Collins converted a placed ball from distance to make it 0-10 apiece in the 54th minute. But that was as good as it got for the West-Cork men, whose prospects suffered an irreversible setback a minute later when UCC's inspirational captain Sean Kiely stormed out of defence before laying the ball off to Stephen O'Brien who smartly parted to Paul Geaney, resulting on a foul on the latter by Liam Collins in the square.
UCC full forward Daithí Casey expertly dispatched the resultant penalty, and Castlehaven were unable to recover from that body-blow, with effective substitute Gavin O'Grady tacking on a brace of unanswered points for the winners before the finish.
That UCC were the better team is beyond dispute, and the fluency of their football when in full flight was never matched by Castlehaven at any stage. Most of the game's leading lights wore a UCC jersey, and nobody shone brighter than Macroom's Sean Kiely, who was virtually an automatic choice for the man-of-the-match accolade.
Kiely lined out at wing back, but he was switched to centre back after 26 minutes in a bid to keep tabs on Castlehaven's talismanic attacker Mark Collins, who had shown flashes of his full potential prior to that. Not alone did Kiely proceed to limit Collins' influence, but he scored a couple of excellent points before capping a five-star display when doing the bulk of the spadework in the lead-up to UCC's game-turning goal.
Kiely wasn't lacking support at the back where selected pivot Niall Daly also benefited from a move to wing back, getting on the scoresheet almost immediately with an outrageous point as UCC finished a mediocre first half with a flourish. That put them two points ahead, and Kiely and ace free-taker Daithí Casey shared a brace of scores to extend their advantage before the break.
Castlehaven led but once in the opening period, with wing back Chris Hayes and wing forward Alan Cahalane quickly replying to a pointed free notched by Daithí Casey in the eighth minute. They had obvious problems at midfield in the first half, with John Buckley and Will Kennedy - ably assisted by the high-fielding JB Spillane, who played a deep role at wing forward - ruling the roost in this sector for UCC.
The picture wasn't a whole lot brighter for Castlehaven in attack where their inside line comprising Bernie Collins, Seanie Cahalane and Brian Hurley, from whom so much was expected, were kept on a very tight rein by UCC's Peter Crowley, Martin Hickey and Matthew Galvin respectively.
At the other end, the Castlehaven rearguard looked reasonably solid, with Mark Limrick conceding little easily to Daithí Casey in general play, and Damien Cahalane and Chris Hayes, arguably their most consistent performer over the hour, keeping their end up well too in the half back line.
Still, UCC appeared to have a bit more to offer up front where corner forward Stephen O'Brien earned the main plaudits before the break, winning the free which enabled Daithí Casey to draw first blood and later setting up scores for Paul Geaney, Mike Griffin and Niall Daly. It meant that Castlehaven weren't exactly air-tight at the back in the first half when Thomas O'Leary clearly had his hands full against O'Brien, and Liam Collins, who gave away a share of needless frees, didn't inspire confidence either in the opposite corner.
The teams were tied, 0-3 to 0-3, after Mark Collins pointed in the 19th minute, and Castlehaven trailed by the bare minimum after Collins added to their tally from a free which he had won himself six minutes later. Then came the switch involving Sean Kiely and Niall Daly in the half back line which was instrumental in enabling UCC to tighten the screw before half time.
In what amounted to a two-point turnaround, Castlehaven keeper Paudie Hurley was off-target from a long-range free, and JB Spillane plucked the kick-out from the clouds before parting to John Crowley, who sent Sean Kiely through for his first score a minute into stoppage time.
Yet, it has to be acknowledged that the four-point gap between the sides was a fair reflection of UCC's superiority in the first half.
Daithí Casey who, despite the close attentions of Mark Limrick, made a decent contribution at full forward - stretched UCC's advantage shortly after the restart, slotting over a free resulting from a foul on Peter Crowley, who had made a powerful run from the back.
Although Bernie Collins and Mark Collins, from a free, bagged the next two scores for the Haven, they still had it all to do when - after Sean Kiely, placed by a peach of a cross from Casey, replied with a point for UCC - they trailed by 0-10 to 0-6 with 20 minutes remaining.
Unveiling their renowned battling qualities, however, they took the wind from UCC's sails for a spell, and the decision to move Seanie Cahalane to the 40 at the three-quarter stage gave their attack a bit more impetus.
Cahalane quickly popped over a point, and substitute David Burns, having been denied earlier by a text-book block by Sean Kiely, rifled over a beauty from the right wing which left them snapping at UCC's heels after 51 minutes.
Mark Collins squared matters from a free three minutes later, and, with Damien Cahalane, switched on to a tiring JB Spillane, and, to a lesser extent, Sean Dineen having improved their fortunes around the middle, they appeared to have the momentum behind them entering the home stretch.
But their comeback was derailed by the UCC goal from Casey's penalty, and the students had the class and confidence to comfortably maintain the whip-hand until the finish.
In the final analysis, it was a very disappointing display by Castlehaven in a contest that only sprang to life in the last quarter, and UCC were full value for a victory which bridged a 12-year gap and gave them a tenth title in all.
Scorers UCC: D Casey 1-4, 1-0 penalty, 0-4 frees, S Kiely 0-2, G O'Grady 0-2, 0-1 free, J Buckley, P Geaney, M Griffin and N Daly 0-1 each. Castlehaven: M Collins 0-5, 0-4 frees, C Hayes, A Cahalane, B Collins, S Cahalane and D Burns 0-1 each.
UCC: S Mellett (Carrigaline), P Crowley (Kerry), M Hickey (Carrignavar), M Galvin (Kerry), T Clancy (Fermoy), N Daly (Roscommon), S Kiely (Macroom), J Buckley (Kerry), W Kennedy (St Michael's), JB Spillane (Kerry), S Beston (Mitchelstown), M Griffin (Kerry), S O'Brien (Kerry), D Casey (Kerry), P Geaney (Kerry). Subs: J O'Sullivan (Kerry) for Griffin, B Coughlan (Kinsale) for Beston, G O'Grady (Kerry) for O'Brien.
Castlehaven: P Hurley, L Collins, D Limrick, T O'Leary, C Hayes, D Cahalane, M Cahalane, D Hurley, S Dineen, A Cahalane, M Collins, R Whelton, B Collins, S Cahalane, B Hurley. Subs: D Burns for Whelton, Stephen Hurley for A Cahalane.
Referee: J Dorgan (Nemo Rangers).
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