GER McCARTHY REPORTS
A SECOND-HALF fightback wasn’t enough to prevent defeat for Castlehaven against Rockbán in the pulsating Cork LGFA U21C county championship final.
The large crowd was treated to a cracking encounter in which Rockbán got off to a blistering start only for their opponents to reduce the deficit to two points by the interval.
Castlehaven were much improved in the second period, restricting Rockbán to 1-1. Crucially, the Union Hall-Castletownshend side failed to get their noses in front despite a gallant effort especially throughout the closing 20 minutes.
The Whitechurch club led by a point deep into injury-time before three scorable opportunities were squandered leaving Castlehaven to ponder what might have been.
‘First and foremost, this was a brilliant game between two brilliant teams,’ Castlehaven mentor John McGuckin told The Southern Star.
‘We felt we were a bit lucky to be only two points behind at half time. They threw a lot at us and we hoped that expanded energy would have stood to us in the second half. Look, we had our opportunities but I suppose we just didn’t take them. Fair play and credit to Rockbán who are a fantastic team.’
Rockbán began at a fast pace and blitzed their opponents for 2-3 during the opening ten minutes. Niamh O’Sullivan got the West Cork side off the mark but Rockbán’s response was vicious. Slicing through their opponent’s defence and winning every breaking ball from Castlehaven’s kick outs, 1-2 from Jennifer Whelan, a Sarah McGrath goal plus an Aideen Donovan free left Castlehaven reeling.
Admirably, the Haven steadied themselves with Ellie McCarthy landing a point before Hannah Sheehy and Becca Sheehy forced Ciara O’Brien into two important saves. Ciara Dennehy denied Aideen Donovan at the opposite end before the excellent Hannah Sheehy raced through to raise a badly needed Castlehaven green flag.
A terrific second quarter delivered plenty of scores at either end. Aideen Donovan, Laura O’Sullivan and Sarah McGrath increased Rockbán’s total while Ellen Buckley, Hannah Sheehy and two Ellie McCarthy efforts made it 2-6 to 1-6.
Aideen Donovan notched her third score prior to Ellie McCarthy and Eilis Bohane responding. 2-7 to 1-8 at half time and everyone present was glad of the opportunity to catch their breath.
The second period was a much tighter affair but no less gripping as Castlehaven’s defence shut down Rockban’s attack. A Niamh O’Sullivan effort left the bare minimum between the teams before a rare second-half defensive lapse cost Castlehaven dearly.
Jennifer Whelan had a superb game and pounced deep in Haven territory before billowing the net for the full-forward’s second goal.
Ellie McCarthy’s free kick-started a Castlehaven revival with Hannah Sheehy rattling over three consecutive scores to level matters 3-7 to 1-13 with five minutes to go. Rockbán remained a threat on the counter-attack as evidenced by Sarah McGrath rattling the crossbar before Jennifer Whelan wriggled free to score her third and Rockbán’s only point of the second half.
There were close to five minutes of injury-time played, a period in which Castlehaven squandered equalising opportunities that would have taken the final to extra-time.
Rockbán held on for the narrowest of U21C county final victories with Castlehaven contributing much to a memorable encounter.
‘We conceded a couple of soft goals but know there could have been more,’ John McGuckin admitted.
‘We are going to see a lot of these (Castlehaven) players at junior and senior level. A big thing for us is the fact we are training as one big panel. Getting to train with those senior girls that came up through the ranks and been playing at adult level for a number of years will stand to these (U21) girls in the long run.’
Rockbán: J Whelan 2-3; S McGrath 1-1; A Donovan 0-3 (1f); L O’Sullivan 0-1.
Castlehaven: H Sheehy 1-4; E McCarthy 0-5 (3f); N O’Sullivan 0-2; Buckley, E Bohane 0-1 each.
Rockbán: C O’Brien; M McGuire, A O’Connor, A O’Sullivan; C O’Riordan, L McGrath, S O’Leary; L O’Sullivan, N Hosford; S Ahern (captain), A Donovan, M O’Herlihy; S McGrath, J Whelan, A Hendley.
Subs: A Twomey for A Hendley (37), C Murphy for C O’Riordan (42).
Castlehaven: C Dennehy; N O’Driscoll, A Daly (captain), C French; E Connolly, L O’Donoghue, E McCarthy; E Buckley, E Maguire; H Sheehy, E McCarthy, G O’Connell; E Bohane, N O’Sullivan, B Sheehy.
Subs: K O’Driscoll for C French (22), S O’Donovan for B Sheehy (38).
Referee: Conor McCarthy (Rosscarbery Ladies).