Defeat for champs
Castletown claim merited victory
There were shades of the Castletown of the past in this emphatic display as they dramatically handed reigning champions, St. James', a six-point defeat in this Tom Doyle Supplies Senior football championship Group A game at Innovate Wexford Park on Saturday.
Castletown 1-11 St. James' 0-8
Castletown, renowned for their all-action football, re-ignited this art to perfection, as they harassed, outplayed and outfought St. James' in a second-half full of excitement and which contained everything that's good about Gaelic football given the intense nature of the exchanges.
The north county side were full value for their victory despite a first-half that saw them kick eight wides, which resulted in them being a point adrift at the interval.
But they atoned with an intense second-half display that led to them playing some of their best football for some time, a quality helped by their high standard of challenge games attained over recent weeks.
St. James' can have few complaints. They had an abundance of first-half possession but failed to translate this into scores. Even the switch of Kevin O'Grady to a full-forward role for the second-half failed to produce the expected scores, but they needed to utilise the speedy attacker with more quality ball.
In turn they came up against a defence where Danny Gardiner was outstanding across the full-back line, while veteran brothers Colm and Noel Morris proved inspirational in their interceptions and quick counter-attacking, with the final pass always hitting its target.
This will go down as one of the best championship games this season. It was full of excellent football, man-to-man exchanges, strong tackling and movement off the ball, while it also had some outstanding individual displays, none more so than from Donnacha Holmes for the eventual winners, and St. James' midfielder Matthew O'Hanlon whose high fielding and distribution was a delight to watch.
While O'Hanlon won an abundance of midfield possession, he lacked the necessary support from his attack, but it was the opposite for Castletown.
Holmes proved the ideal targetman playing out of the left corner of the attack, as his ability to hold the long ball at the first time of asking, and lay it off to better placed players, while also executing his own scores, proved decisive in his side's eventual victory.
Through the opening ten minutes spectators were treated to just one score as the respective defences lay down a marker, namely a Shane Murphy point after four minutes. Eight minutes later Kevin O'Grady pointed a free, which was followed by a superb Matthew O'Hanlon point off the sideline to give his side a 0-3 to nil lead.
Castletown had to wait until the 16th minute for their opening score, a Donncha Holmes point, but the champions' response was swift, with a fine Kevin O'Grady run and point one minute later restoring his side's three-point advantage (0-4 to 0-1).
Castletown, struggling for scores, eventually found the target with two quick-fire points from Anthony Masterson and Brendan Halpin frees. The sides exchanged further points through an O'Hanlon 40-metre free and a long-range effort from Andy Merrigan, leaving St. James' ahead by 0-5 to 0-4 at the interval.
The opening twelve minutes of the second-half belonged to Castletown. They increased the tempo of their play with quality attacking football, leading to points from Anthony Masterson ('45), Brendan Halpin (free) and Masterson from play to push them into a 0-7 to 0-5 lead after 41 minutes.
One minute later the decisive score arrived. Wing-forward Pierce Maxwell cut in from the terrace side before placing a delightful ball over the head of 'keeper John Ryan into the opposite corner of the net, increasing his side's lead even further (1-7 to 0-5).
It was some 13 minutes into the second-half before St. James' broken their barren spell with a Kevin O'Grady pointed free, which was followed by a Graeme Molloy free, to leave the scoreline at 1-7 to 0-7.
Brendan Halpin responded with a pointed free after Donncha Holmes was fouled. After this Matthew O'Hanlon (free) and Halpin (play) exchanged points, but just to demonstrate their superiority, a sweeping Castletown move on the finish split the St. James' defence, leaving Jody O'Shaughnessy to punch the point in a one-on-one with the 'keeper when he could so easily have goaled.
Castletown: Niall Hempenstall; Joe Aherne, Noel Morris, David Deering; Colm Morris, Danny Gardiner, Colin Kennedy; Stephen Moloney, Anthony Masterson (0-3, 1 free, 1 '45); Pierce Maxwell (1-0), Brendan Halpin (0-4, 3 frees), Andy Merrigan (0-1); Donnacha Holmes (0-2), Jody O'Shaughnessy (0-1), James Holmes. Sub. - Joe Gardiner for Moloney.
St. James': John Ryan; Paul Barron, Jason Barron, Robbie Barron; David Doyle, Graeme Molloy (0-1 free), Alan Walsh; Brendan Doyle, Matthew O'Hanlon (0-3 frees); Jack O'Brien, Kevin O'Grady (0-3, 2 frees), Mark Molloy; Brian Molloy, Emmet Dunning, Shane Murphy (0-1). Subs. - Greg Doyle for R. Barron, Adam Long for Dunning, Darragh Lyons for M. Molloy, Donal Barron for P. Barron, inj.
Referee: Seán Whelan (St. Martin's).