Castletown's derby delight
Greenstar Under-20 Division 2 FC final: Castletown 3-12 Kilanerin 2-11
Castletown repelled a late rally from old foes Kilanerin to snap up the last title of 2018, the Greenstar Under-20 Division 2 football championship, in St. Patrick's Park, Enniscorthy, on the Friday evening before Christmas.
Seven points in arrears at the interval, the boys in red and white twice powered themselves within a point, including when Seán Forde popped over a 58th-minute free-kick to set up a frantic ending.
However, it would have been more than a little harsh on Castletown had they let the crown slip away. It was fitting that, after such a long season, the last game came to a crescendo with a string of quality scores.
Jamie Doyle kicked a lovely effort on the right side in the 60th minute to make it a two-point lead, Cian Bealin added another from a similar position moments later, and when Darragh Brooks drilled the point of the night Castletown had scored three in less than 90 seconds.
And that was the end of Kilanerin, with simply no way back from a Castletown onslaught that secured a big ball, small ball double, after the boys in maroon had picked up the Division 4 hurling title 108 days earlier.
Kilanerin deserve great credit for their performance and the heart they showed to get as close as they did. Their opponents bossed the opening half and their 2-4 to 0-3 interval lead was probably as short an advantage as they could have had after butchering several goal chances.
It wasn't necessarily the way they rebounded immediately after the interval - Castletown came out flat and Kilanerin were able to take advantage and get within one (2-4 to 1-6) - it was the way they responded a second time.
Castletown actually led by 3-9 to 1-9 after 53 minutes, almost back to the respectable lead they held at the change of ends. The champions looked like they had seen off everything Kilanerin had to offer, but incredible guts and determination meant it went right down to the wire.
A goal looked likely in almost every attack as Castletown shredded their neighbours in the opening stages. The first one came in the second minute, when Craanford import Jamie Doyle fed Shane Halpin, and the corner-forward took aim and smashed high to Kyle Ryan's net.
Interestingly, while Jamie Doyle was probably the most influential 'Ford man on show, he wasn't the only one. The half-forward was joined by Martin Doyle for Castletown, while Jim Kenny and Eoin Doyle wore Kilanerin colours.
Paudie Hughes and Seán Forde narrowed the gap to one but they were bending without breaking at the other end. The whole three-man full-forward line seemed to be constantly out in front, continuously causing Kilanerin headaches.
All three - Darragh Brooks, Frank Kavanagh and Halpin - could have added another major before Brooks popped over a free at the start of the second quarter.
Halpin knocked over his side's second point and Darragh Brooks converted after brother Robbie was impeded (1-3 to 0-2).
Castletown were bossing things but Kilanerin did show enough to keep them honest on their rare forays forward. Conor Hughes fisted over their third point but Brooks matched it three minutes later at the other end.
Kilanerin would have been delighted to get in at the break just four down, but those hopes were sliced apart when Oisín Condren dropped a ball into a dangerous area and Halpin glanced it over Kyle Ryan's head with a nonchalant fingertip finish.
Maybe Castletown thought they had the hard work done at the break, leading by seven, as they certainly didn't find their intense best right after the resumption. Instead Kilanerin eased back into the game with points from Seán Forde and Conor Hughes.
When Stephen Neville's long-range effort dipped over Seán Harte and into the Castletown net in the 37th minute, it was well and truly game on. Tails up, Hughes kicked his third of the evening to cut the deficit to one (2-4 to 1-6).
Importantly, Castletown responded immediately. Halpin pointed before he made the most of good work by Ross Cody and fired home his hat-trick major.
Neville knocked over a pair for his side but Kilanerin were 3-8 to 1-8 down after consecutive scores from Jamie Doyle, Cody and Rory Heffernan.
When Conor Hughes and Darragh Brooks exchanged white flags there was still six between the sides and time was starting to run out for Kilanerin. However, they were given further hope when Hughes was shoved in the back and they were awarded a penalty.
Rob Murphy stepped up and saw his spot kick superbly saved by Harte, but he followed it in and buried the rebound to put just a kick of the ball between the sides. Tails up again, Forde kicked points in the 55th and 58th minutes to narrow the deficit to one.
However, Castletown battened down the hatches again and drove to victory. Those three fantastic points in a row from Doyle, Bealin and Darragh Brooks ensured 2018 ended in style for the boys from Tomnahely whose win was made all the more impressive by the absence of powerful midfielder Liam Coleman through injury.
Castletown: Seán Harte; Mikey Fenlon; Martin Doyle, Chris Callanan; Killian Pierce, Ross Cody (0-1), Cian Bealin (0-1); Rory Heffernan (0-1), Oisín Condren; Frank Roche (capt.), Robbie Brooks, Jamie Doyle (0-2); Darragh Brooks (0-5, 3 frees), Frank Kavanagh, Shane Halpin (3-2). Subs. - Seán O'Loughlin for Pierce (57), Alex Murphy for J. Doyle (60), also Liam Coleman, Eoin Cullen.
Kilanerin: Kyle Ryan; Robert Murphy (1-0), Eoin Doyle, Cathal Owley; Andrew Murphy, Jim Kenny, Colm Noctor (capt.); Paudie Hughes (0-1), Seán Bardon; Ben O'Connor, Seán Forde (0-5, 3 frees), Pat O'Connor; Stephen Mordaunt, Stephen Neville (1-2), Conor Hughes (0-3). Subs. - Tom Mordaunt for O'Connor (28), Ben Morris for Owley (31), also Donnacha McDonald.
Referee: David Jenkins (Gusserane).