Castletown save best for last
Shrewd substitutions work wonders for men in maroon
Ccastletown snatched the All-County Football League Division 1 title out of Gusserane's hands with a blitzkrieg finish in Innovate Wexford Park on Sunday.
Castletown 1-15 Gusserane 1-12
Trailing by 1-12 to 0-11, after three consecutive Gusserane points, there was little sign of what was just around the corner. The Gorey District side introduced the experienced duo of Anthony Masterson and Jesse Foley and the game suddenly changed.
Both were excellent in their eleven-minute cameos but it was almost as if their arrival lifted everyone else in the side too. Suddenly a pace previously missing from their game was injected as they timed their winning run to perfection.
Masterson won the first free two minutes after coming on and Conor Carty kicked it to narrow the gap to three. Then the county goalkeeper was impeded again and he converted from just inside the '45.
Two minutes later Masterson clattered the left upright from a similar distance. When the ball was only cleared back to the Castletown substitute, he made no mistake in pulling it back to 1-12 to 0-14 from just outside the '20.
The Gorey District side were still a point behind but suddenly they were completely dominant. As Adrian Flynn and Richard Farrell grappled on the floor, Castletown broke up field. Jody O'Shaughnessy fed Conor Carty who picked the perfect time to off-load to Stephen Maloney on the right of goal, and the midfielder flashed high into Shane Cullen's net.
The goal went in with three minutes remaining and gave the victors a 1-14 to 1-12 lead. They wrapped up the trophy when James Holmes sprinted away and prudently handpassed his point rather than attempting a trademark rocket at goal.
It brought to an end a game that Gusserane played really well in for 50 minutes.
They introduced a new ploy to their attacking options, using Seán Ryan all over the half-forwards, as well as inside, and he put in an influential shift, both in build-up play and with a few scores.
It was a pretty open game of football too. Both sides looked to play the right way, attacking at pace and with a certain amount of calm directness. The skills were sharp and the inter-change was efficient, something that's not always evident in a Senior championship that boasts a lot of hurling-first clubs.
The first-half was a particularly entertaining affair. Kenneth Cahill tapped over the opening score after a short burst into space.
His side added a goal moments later when Jamie Cooney's ball was claimed and fed by Mark Rossiter to Páraic Conway and the attacker cracked in his shot off the post.
Playing with the breeze, Castletown settled after their shocking start and were level by the eleventh minute.
Richard Farrell picked off their opening pair of minors while Andy Merrigan also knocked over a brace.
When Brendan Halpin nailed his second point in the 14th minute, Castletown had their first lead. Fantastic team scores followed at either end. Halpin, Colm Morris, James Holmes and Conor Carty all combined before Morris popped over.
Not to be outdone, Páraic Conway inter-changed with Graeme Cullen, Kenneth Cahill and Cillian Kehoe before tapping over his second point to make it 1-5 to 0-8.
An NFL-style stiff-arm by James Holmes gave him enough space to accelerate on the right wing and subsequently point with his left foot as Castletown went in 0-10 to 1-6 ahead.
In the first 20 minutes of the second-half Castletown managed just a Holmes point as Gusserane dominated.
The New Ross District side missed a great chance when Seán Ryan drew three defenders into the right corner and found Kehoe.
He handpassed across goal but under duress the ball thumped Conway's shin and flew narrowly wide.
Mark Rossiter brought his tally to four at the end of the third quarter before Jamie Cooney tapped over to give his side a 1-12 to 0-11 lead.
However, it wasn't enough as Castletown ended with a 1-4 run without reply to take the league title.
Castletown: Niall Hempenstall; David Deering, Danny Gardiner (capt.), Joe Gardiner; Colin Kennedy, Noel Morris, Jody O'Shaughnessy; Richard Farrell (0-3, 1 '45), Stephen Maloney (1-1); Andy Merrigan (0-2), Brendan Halpin (0-2), Colm Morris (0-1); James Holmes (0-3), Conor Carty (0-1 free), Donnacha Holmes. Subs. - Marc Halpin for N. Morris (45), Anthony Masterson (0-2, 1 free) for Merrigan (49), Jesse Foley for Kennedy (49), also James Flood, Risteárd Kinsella, Ross Bealin, Mick O'Donoghue, Danny Dixon, Robbie Brooks, Seán Roche, Pierce Maxwell, Aaron Condren, Yusuf Frih, Gavin Stamp, Joe Aherne.
Gusserane: Shane Cullen; Cathal Somers, Liam Dillon, Jack O'Connor; Adrian Redmond, Adrian Flynn (0-1 free), Matty Flynn; John Roche, Cillian Kehoe (0-1); Seán Ryan (0-2), Graeme Cullen (capt.), Páraic Conway (1-2); Jamie Cooney (0-1), Kenneth Cahill (0-1), Mark Rossiter (0-4 frees). Subs. - Robbie Corcoran for Redmond (54), also David Kehoe, Shane Doyle, Jack Burford, Mark O'Neill, Philip Wallace, James Redmond, Martin Fitzharris, Tom Foran, Micheál Ryan, Ciarán Conway, James Kinsella, Darragh Doyle.
Referee: Kevin Carty (Sarsfields).