Stars add shine to a super year
Starlights 1-14 Castletown 1-7
Starlights capped their 2017 big ball renaissance with a powerful performance to take the Greenstar Under-21 Premier 'B' championship title in St. Patrick's Park on the Saturday before Christmas.
The Bellefield side have rebounded well from the concession of the walkover to St. Martin's that saw them exit the 'A' championship. They have knuckled down and proved too strong for all the other first round losers.
There was never any doubt about this result, as Starlights took control at the end of the first quarter - scoring a lovely goal through Dylan McVeigh - and bossed proceedings for most of the game.
Realistically they won too many of the individual battles against a young, exciting Castletown outfit. The Gorey District side have certainly benefited from the extra games and are probably cursing their luck a little that their final opponents drew St. Martin's in the first round proper.
Dayle Donohoe picked off a nice opener with just a minute on the clock but the sides felt each other out for the next few moments. Diarmuid Byrne pinged a classy point off the outside of his right boot to make it 0-2 to nil after eleven minutes.
Castletown missed a couple of opportunities to get themselves on the scoresheet as the first quarter wound down.
They were dealt a powerful blow when Donohoe and Aaron Dobbs combined to release McVeigh who flashed past Alex Reid for the game's opening goal.
Nick Doyle made it 1-3 to nil and then split Castletown open with a stunning through-ball that sent Nathan O'Connor in on the right of goal. Reid made a fine save from the shot and it seemed to boost his team, as they scored quick points from Ross Bealin and Robbie Brooks to give themselves some respite.
From almost nowhere, Castletown pulled within a goal when Darragh Brooks knocked a free-kick in off the far upright in the 23rd minute.
However, their goal continued to live a charmed life. After Dobbs pointed, Donohoe ghosted in but his weak shot was well stopped by Reid.
Dobbs nailed the resulting '45 and Willie Doyle tapped over after an excellent Craig Foley feed. Donohoe was in on goal again in first-half added-time but again Reid was up to the challenge. He tipped the ball over the bar to keep his side somewhat within touch, trailing by 1-7 to 0-3 at the break.
The game ticked along without anything really changing for a while after the break. Twice Starlights increased their lead to eight through Ryan Mahon and Dobbs but Castletown responded with Yusif Frih and Darragh Brooks on target.
Brooks put six between the sides in the 38th minute but Frih missed a decent chance to halve the deficit moments later and things quickly started to go south for the border club. Dobbs notched a brace, Jack Doyle scored, and Craig Foley followed suit to make it 1-13 to 0-6 after 53 minutes.
A shove inside was enough to give Castletown a penalty in the 57th minute and maybe a sniff of a late, dramatic revival.
After some consultation Ross Bealin stepped up to take responsibility for the spot-kick and he produced one of the best of the season, low and powerful into the bottom corner, sending Dylan Cloke the wrong way.
It livened up a game that was meandering to a finish, at least for a few minutes.
Castletown, seven points behind, dumped a few balls into the goalmouth but they couldn't win the breaks and Starlights defended confidently, without too much stress, to repel the few moments of potential danger.
In the end, just as added-time began, Dobbs knocked over his sixth point, this one from the deck. Robbie Brooks flashed a late, close-range free narrowly over the crossbar after Bealin was fouled but, over or under, it didn't matter at that stage.
Starlights were the better side and took a thoroughly-deserved title to end an excellent season for the club on a high.
Starlights: Dylan Cloke; John Murphy, Ben Edwards, Ryan Hadley; Nathan O'Connor, Dillon Redmond (capt.), Craig Foley (0-1); Nick Doyle (0-1), Aaron Dobbs (0-6, 4 frees, 1 '45); Anthony Murphy, Dayle Donohoe (0-2), Jack Doyle (0-1); Willie Doyle (0-1), Dylan McVeigh (1-0), Diarmuid Byrne (0-1). Subs. - Ryan Mahon (0-1) for W. Doyle (HT), Darragh Pepper for Byrne (HT), Ronan Kirwan for McVeigh, inj. (47), Tyler O'Connor for J. Doyle (58), Mick Dempsey for A. Murphy (58), also Anto Larkin, Declan Courtney, Garry Murphy, Andrew Sherlock.
Castletown: Alex Reid; Ross Cody, Frank Roche, Eoin Cullen; Killian Pierce, Joe Gardiner (capt.), Cathal Meenagh; Rory Heffernan, Liam Coleman; Darragh Brooks (0-3, 2 frees), Liam Condren, Frank Kavanagh; Ross Bealin (1-1, 1-0 pen.), Robbie Brooks (0-2, 1 free), Shane Halpin. Subs. - Yusif Frih (0-1) for Condren (21), Oisín Condren for Kavanagh (31), Liam Condren for Halpin (42).
Referee: James Flood (St. Mary's, Maudlintown).