This was a fine display of character from both sides also, Castlehaven especially showing their grit in battling back from the brink on several occasions. Coming up to half-time of regular time they trailed by six points but three in-a-row left them in a much healthier position at the break, just Luke Connolly’s goal between the sides (1-6 to 0-6).
Then, with time running out in the second half they again found themselves in trouble, two behind with only two minutes remaining but again the ‘Haven fought back, points from the brothers Brian (fine outing) and Stephen Hurley tying it up, 1-9 to 0-12.
Into extra-time in the fast-gathering dusk, not a sinner in the fine crowd even considering an early break for home, and though this time it was Castlehaven taking an early lead with a booming long-range pointed placed-ball kick into the wind by Damien Cahalane (a 45 from wide left, the shorter of his two magnificent strikes on the night into that wind), again it was the men from the far west who found themselves trailing as the game headed towards closure, Nemo’s big guns Paul Kerrigan, James Masters and the irrepressible Luke Connolly (2) all pointing for Nemo.
Time almost up, Castlehaven needed a point to survive and it came. That it was the result of a poor call by referee James Bermingham (a text-book fair shoulder by in-possession Colin O’Brien, one of a number of baffling decisions on the night, against both sides), rightly disputed by Nemo and then brought forward to directly in front of the posts, should not take from this result, however, should not take from the game itself nor take from either team.
Both were superb, though on the night, had Nemo brought their shooting-boots (14 wides to 10), they might just have sneaked the win. Corner-forward Luke Connolly was especially culpable, seven wides including five-in-a-row. Book-ending those wides however, and far more indicative of Luke’s considerable potential, 1-1 to start the game then two superb strikes in the second half of extra-time, along with another point along the way.
Better to come as the season progresses, promises manager Steven O’Brien. “It’s the first championship game of the season. We’ve been playing league games but there’s a huge difference between league and championship. The tempo is a lot higher, everyone is up to high doe and in that situation, unfortunately, fellas are going to make mistakes and we did make a few. But we also kicked some fine scores, as did they. As the year goes on hopefully we’ll all be a bit more clinical, banging most of those over. We’re very proud of the whole lot of them, Luke included. Did we make mistakes? Yes we did, loads of mistakes, but we never gave up the ghost which is the most pleasing thing.”
For Castlehaven manager Finbarr Santry it wasn’t about missed chances, it’s about missing players. “We’re down Timmy Donovan, Mark and Alan Cahalane, they’ve emigrated; David Burns is retired. The two Dineens, Seán and Michael, are unavailable for the foreseeable future due to work commitments. Bobby Nolan has a long-term injury, Chris Hayes has a shoulder gone, Darragh Cahalane did his groin, Michael Hurley came on tonight but he’s just getting a cast off a few days ago! That’s the bones of 12 fellas from our panel last year but we ploughed on.”
Scorers for Castlehaven: B Hurley 0-8 (6f); M Collins 0-2; D Cahalane 0-2 (1f, 1 45); R Whelton, J Davis, D Hegarty, Stephen Hurley, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Nemo Rangers: L Connelly 1-4 (1f); J Masters 0-5 (2f); P Kerrigan 0-2; K Fulinati, W Morgan, 0-1 each.
CASTLEHAVEN: P Hurley; T O’Leary, L Collins D Limrick; D Cahalane, R Whelton, J Davis; D Hurley, M Collins; D Hegarty, Stephen Hurley, Shane Hurley; S Cahalane, S Nolan, B Hurley.
Subs: E Dennehy (Hegarty inj. 44); D Hegarty (Shane Hurley inj. 70); M Hurley (Shane Nolan 73).
NEMO RANGERS: D Farry; A O’Reilly, C O’Shea, S Cronin; C O’Brien, B O’Regan (c), K Fulinati; P Morgan, D Mehigan; W Morgan, A Cronin, P Kerrigan; B O’Driscoll, J Masters, L Connolly.
Subs: A Morgan (O’Driscoll inj. 27); A O’Donovan (Mehigan 42); D Mehigan (W Morgan 70).
Referee: J Bermingham (Bride Rovers).