McCallon lifts Garrycastle

MARK McCALLON netted a golden goal in Mullingar yesterday to keep Garrycastle on track for an historic Leinster Club SFC football title. Not alone has the Westmeath club never won the provincial title, but no team from the Lake County has ever managed to annex the provincial crown.

What’s definite is that the cup will find a new home outside of Dublin for the first time since 2006. Ballyboden travelled to the midlands venue with high expectations. But their hopes of progression were partly undone by the loss of what manager Liam O’Dwyer described as the ‘spine’ of his team.

Captain Declan O’Mahony was suspended, full-forward Kenny Naughton was out with a shoulder injury and county star Conal Keaney cried off with flu before throw-in. Keaney came on and converted a late 45 but the game was up by then, as convincing Garrycastle led form pillar to post.

In a low-scoring tie, there was still only three between them midway through the second half. That’s when McCallon was expertly played in on the right of goals by ex-county player Paddy Mulvihill for the decisive goal.

It was a deserved strike as Garrycastle played their best football in the second half despite facing into a stiff breeze and ground out a comfortable win. They’ll face Clara of Offaly or Portlaoise in the final on December 6 when they’ll bid for history.

“You really become a very well known team and a very well respected team if you win a provincial title,” said Garrycastle manager Anthony Cunningham, who led St Brigid’s to the 2006 Connacht title.

“Why not kick on and go for it now? We’re there and we deserve to be there. In fairness to Ballyboden, if they’d got the goal at the point we did, it would have been a tough battle all the way to the finish.

“I think the goal we got was well worked. It turned the game and we were coasting for the last 10 minutes.”

It was Ballyboden’s second Leinster loss in a week after the club’s hurlers bowed out to Ballyhale Shamrocks.

Boss Liam O’Dwyer refused to blame fatigue though and lamented the loss of his key trio of players. “When it comes to the Leinster championship you need your full squad at all times to take on good teams like Garrycastle,” said O’Dwyer.

“To lose Conal just before throw-in was an awful blow for us. At half-time I was still pretty happy with our play but I have to hand it to Garrycastle, they performed to the utmost in the second half and got their tactics spot on.”

Ballyboden didn’t help themselves, however. Dublin hurling captain Stephen Hiney missed a great ninth minute goal chance and Ballyboden also gave away a needless free for a pickup by their goalkeeper that Dessie Dolan easily converted.

It allowed Garrycastle to creep 0-5 to 0-2 clear at half-time. They were 0-6 to 0-3 clear when Dolan hit his third point of the game. Both sides craved a goal and Garrycastle got it in the 45th minute to push decisively clear.

Former Longford Town soccer striker Paddy Mulvihill played in the overlapping McCallon with a great pass forward and from 12 yards on the right of goals, he beat the keeper. Keaney was sprung into action for the last 10 minutes and converted a 45m free for Ballyboden. Andrew Kerin then scored from a sideline kick.

But any hopes of a Ballyboden fightback were halted by back-to-back Garrycastle points from captain Garry Dolan and David O’Shaughnessy.

Garrycastle looked cool and calm in possession and dominated the breaking ball in the middle third. In contrast, Ballyboden furiously chased scores and gave away two possible points from placed balls to technical fouls late on.

GARRYCASTLE: C Mullen; P Rattigan, J Gaffey, E Mulvihill; M McCallon (1-0), K Henson, D Harte; S O’Donoghue, D O’Shaughnessy (0-1); P Dillon (0-1; 1f), J Duignan (0-1), J Dolan; P Mulvihill (0-1), G Dolan (0-1), D Dolan (0-3; 1f).

Subs: T McHugh for Rattigan 15, A Browne for Mulvihill 52, S O’Reilly for Dillon 54, D Hermbusche for J Dolan 62.

BALLYBODEN ST ENDA’S: D Walsh; J O’Hara, I Clarke, M O’Sullivan; D Nelson, D Kiernan, C Dolan; M McAuley, P Galvin; D Davey, S Hiney (0-1), C Smyth (0-1); S Durkin, S Lambert (0-1), A Kerin (0-2; 1 s/l, 1 45).

Subs: C Hiney for Davey 48, C Keaney (0-1; 1 45) for Dolan 50.

Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).

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