Kings of the castle
Castletown 3-14 Gusserane 0-12
Castletown wrapped up back-to-back All-County Football League Division 1 titles by comfortably seeing off Gusserane in Bellefield on Friday.
However, there was none of the drama of last year's dramatic late victory as the Gorey District side netted three times in the opening half and coasted their way to the finish line after the break.
As is the norm with league finals, both sides were well short of their full contingent. The result, and the way the game went, won't stand for much come championship time but what it does suggest is that Castletown have a slightly deeper squad of players from which to choose.
The champions boasted ten different scorers in this game and that pretty much says it all about how well they combined and played as a team. It was sharp, clinical and classy from the boys in maroon, who were intent on playing fast, expansive football.
While there were other excellent performances for the victors, the solitary point scored by Jody O'Shaughnessy doesn't tell the story of a man of the match-type performance. The longer the game went on, the more his team sought him out.
Even when the spare Gusserane defender edged his way, the experienced attacker always seemed to nab the ball first. His willingness to run, win quick ball and off-load was a big reason why Castletown managed 3-13 of their total from play.
They started brightly with a Colin Kennedy point. Then, with just five minutes on the clock Pierce Maxwell handpassed across the face of goal for the onrushing Colm Morris and the former county star stretched to punch past Micheál Ryan and into the Gusserane net.
After the first of Andy Merrigan's three points put Castletown 1-2 to nil up, the New Ross District side started to find their feet. Seán Ryan, playing deep, was the focal point for a lot of his side's early chances, scoring one and making one as the gap narrowed to two.
There was a goal in the contest when Ryan punched wide, after a one-two with Jamie Cooney, in the 17th minute. Castletown made a switch to nullify the nippy forward's influence and while he still looked dangerous ball-in-hand, Gusserane struggled to get him enough possession.
Donnacha Holmes, who has been on fire this season, sauntered 40 yards with the ball and sent an inch-perfect finish to the top corner of the net in the 21st minute - although the jury is still out on whether it was a goal or point attempt.
After Graeme Cullen kicked a nice point, efforts from Stephen Maloney and Marc Halpin helped Castletown into a 2-5 to 0-4 lead. Ryan cut in from the left in the 29th minute but fired his low shot into the side-netting.
It proved to be a costly miss as Castletown marched up the other end and Danny Gardiner finished a move that involved Morris, Maxwell and Kennedy by finding the Gusserane net. Jamie Cooney's late point meant that the eventual victors led by 3-5 to 0-5 at the interval.
Gusserane made a bright start to the second-half, with Mark Rossiter grabbing a brace of scores. However, any lingering hopes of a comeback were ended by a string of minors from Richard Farrell, Andy Merrigan and Donnacha Holmes.
John Roche launched over one of the scores of the evening in the 46th minute but his side still trailed by double-digits (3-10 to 0-9). When Marc Halpin picked up his second yellow and was dismissed with eleven minutes remaining, it only served to kick Castletown into life again.
The Holmes brothers kicked the next three points between them; James came off the bench for one while Donnacha brought his total to 1-4 with a pair.
Shane Cullen registered Gusserane's last point in the 56th minute but fittingly O'Shaughnessy had the last say, ending his excellent individual performance with the final score of the evening.
Castletown: Anthony Masterson; Marc Halpin (0-1), Joe Gardiner, Joe Ahearne; Frank Roche, Richard Farrell (0-1), Conor Cleary; Danny Gardiner (capt., 1-1), Colin Kennedy (0-1); Pierce Maxwell, Colm Morris (1-0), Donnacha Holmes (1-4); Stephen Maloney (0-1), Andy Merrigan (0-3, 1 free), Jody O'Shaughnessy (0-1). Subs. - James Holmes (0-1) for Maxwell (42), Risteárd Kinsella for Kennedy, black card (53), also Niall Hempenstall, Gavin Stamp, Robbie Brooks, Aaron Condren, Stephen Gardiner.
Gusserane: Micheál Ryan; Jack O'Connor, Paul Wall, James Redmond; Donal Kiely, Graeme Cullen (capt., 0-1), Jack Burford; Cillian Kehoe, John Roche (0-1); Mark Rossiter (0-7, 5 frees), Shane Cullen (0-1), Adrian Redmond; Seán Ryan (0-1), Jamie Cooney (0-1 free), Martin Fitzharris. Subs. - Tom Foran for A. Redmond (31), Shane Doyle for Kehoe (31), Chris Cullen for Cooney (55), also Kenneth Cahill, Brian Hennessy, Robert Browne, Robbie Corcoran, Seán O'Connor, Matty Flynn, Keith O'Grady, Ciarán Conway, Ger Wallace, Adrian Flynn, Gavin Sheehan, Mark O'Neill, Liam Dillon, Páraic Conway, Cathal Somers.
Referee: Anthony Tobin (Geraldine O'Hanrahans).