Another crown for Castletown
Greenstar U-20 Football Premier 'B' Championship Final: Castletown 0-10 Starlights 1-4
The consistency of Castletown's play was critical as they edged their way to the Greenstar Under-20 football Premier 'B' championship title against Starlights in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on the Saturday before Christmas.
The Gorey District club were made to fight all the way to the finish against a battling Bellefield side, but they got their just desserts for their crisper brand of football and just about held on to take the crown.
This was an entertaining game, especially in the second-half, with both sides going after the title. It was a tough encounter, with plenty of big hits and numerous strong tackles, but by and large it was a sporting contest.
The flow of the game was helped by John O'Loughlin's refereeing. At times both sides felt he was 'bad for both of us', but the Monageer-Boolavogue clubman set his stall out to allow as much to go as possible and did it in a balanced way which left both sides knowing the score.
Teams can have it the other way, where every borderline infringement is called, but that usually leads to the 'he wouldn't let the game flow' yap. In fairness, the players just got on with it and delivered the goods on a cold evening.
Starlights were coming off an easy victory over St. Anne's, maybe too easy, and they took a while to acclimatise to the tougher Castletown challenge.
They were 0-3 to nil down before they got a handle on the game and, given that was the final margin of defeat, that tardiness proved costly.
Midfield was a real battle ground with four serious operators. There won't be two better at this level than Rory Heffernan and Liam Coleman, and they were both on the scoreboard as Castletown moved ahead.
Heffernan scored a lovely point in there, knocking over after strong work by Frankie Kavanagh. He could have had a goal too but was denied by a fine Anthony Larkin save, as was Killian Pierce two minutes later, as Castletown threatened to push clear.
It took almost 20 minutes for Starlights to get their opening score. The Enniscorthy town side had three wides previously, but there was no such wastefulness from J.P. Farrell when his chance came to knock over the opener.
After Mikey McVeigh was shoved in the back, Lee Jordan converted to pull his team within one (0-3 to 0-2).
Having not scored for 23 minutes, Castletown found a little life at the end of the half, starting with a Vinny Quinlan point after strong play by Seán Og Stafford.
Daniel Cranch took mere seconds to make the lead three points before Starlights notched the final score of the half, a shot driven over by Oran Carty, after Seán Breen and Aaron Doobs combined to set him free.
Up by 0-5 to 0-3 at the re-start, Castletown set about building on their lead. Within a minute Heffernan kicked a free, and it was added to by Cian Bealin a short time later.
And when Cranch scored his second, it was suddenly a five-point advantage after 36 minutes.
It could have soon got worse for Starlights. When Heffernan drew the last defender and placed the perfect pass to the alone Brian O'Leary it looked likely to be the game's opening goal, but to beat a 'keeper of Anthony Larkin's quality the finish has to be near perfect, and it wasn't.
The disappointment slowed Castletown for a while, but they did go 0-9 to 0-3 up in the 47th minute when Frankie Kavanagh crept one inside the upright.
Much like the first-half, Starlights were struggling for scores but finally broke their duck when Anthony Larkin pointed shortly after swapping goalkeeping duties with Cian Larkin.
Cranch knocked over his third to make it 0-10 to 0-4 in the 55th minute, and it looked set to stay that way as time ran down.
However, the Bellefield boys set up a dramatic finish when Breen drilled past Seán Harte with seconds of normal time remaining.
Yet despite battling to the whistle, they couldn't find another big chance and Castletown held on to take the title and end a fantastic season for the club in serious style.
Castletown: Seán Harte; Mikey Fenlon, Ross Cody (capt.), Seán O'Hagan; Eoin Cullen, Killian Pierce, Cian Bealin (0-1); Rory Heffernan (0-2, 1 free), Liam Coleman (0-2 frees); Brian O'Leary, Vincent Quinlan (0-1), Mark Doyle; Seán Óg Stafford, Frankie Kavanagh (0-1), Daniel Cranch (0-3). Subs. - Alex Murphy for Stafford (31), Seán O'Loughlin for O'Leary (60), also Brandon Doyle, Darragh Heffernan, Dylan Goland, Eoin Coleman, Colm Meenagh, Chris Callanan, Darragh Brooks, Tom Kavanagh, Patrick Kavanagh.
Starlights: Anthony Larkin (0-1); Jack Kirwan, Mick Delaney, Cian Larkin; Craig Peare, Nathan O'Connor, Craig Foley; Seán Breen (1-0), Aaron Dobbs; J.P. Farrell (0-1), Lee Jordan (0-1 free), Oran Carty (0-1); Will Doyle, Mikey McVeigh, Mikey Dempsey. Subs. - Cian Hanley for Doyle (41), Martin Ryan for Peare, inj. (58), Bradley Fortune for Dempsey (60), also Jack Doyle, Ciarán Sheil.
Referee: John O'Loughlin (Monageer-Boolavogue).