Castlehaven capitalise as Stradbally let it slip

Castlehaven 1-05 Stradbally 0-07
Over the line. Job done.

Objective achieved. Castlehaven may have progressed to the Munster Club football final but the fashion of their victory contained for too much grit and graft for a match many expected to be a cakewalk.

Pushed to the pin of their collar yesterday in Clonakilty by a physically powerful Stradbally side, they found themselves losing with 11 minutes to play.

With both sides struggling to come to terms with a biting wind and icy rain, there was no room for artistry in a tough contest, and while a one-point win was a fair reflection, the Waterford side ended the game deep in the opposing half, looking for an equaliser.

The match was the proverbial game of two halves, with the stiff breeze aiding Stradbally in the first half. They weren’t long using it to good effect, with David Grey and Shane Aherne (free) scoring early on.

Sean Dinneen responded for Castlehaven, but it proved to be their only score of the half. Though they were able to win possession and retain the ball well, they were unable to make headway. With Waterford senior hurling captain Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh anchoring midfield, the Stradbally forwards enjoyed plenty of possession, even if they didn’t always make that count on the scoreboard.

They had points from Ger Power and Niall Curran before the end of the second quarter but hit a disastrous five wides in a row, some from very kickable positions. Castlehaven had their own travails: Stradbally clogged the midfield with bodies, which kept Damien Cahalane from making his trademark runs up field, though one huge positive for the West Cork men was keeper Paudie Hurley’s ability to drive the ball low into the breeze with his kick-outs, ensuring the battle for possession took place around the middle of the field.

Niall Curran and Shane Ahearne knocked over frees before the break to leave it 0-6 to 0-1 at the half. Castlehaven began the second half brightly, with Shane Nolan blasting over from the 14m line, but they then hit three wides in a row. Stradbally almost snatched a sensational goal on 36 minutes, when a Robert Aherne effort hung in the breeze and bounced off the Castlehaven bar outfield to safety. A goal at that stage would have given them a seven-point advantage which, given the conditions, their opponents would have hardly have reeled in, but as it was, Stradbally had a good lead with the game entering the third quarter, 0-6 to 0-2 ahead.

Then Brian Hurley scored an inspirational point for Castlehaven, which was followed by the game’s turning point. On 49 minutes Damien Cahalane surged up field and tried for a point, but the ball dropped into the Stradbally goal, where keeper Oliver Costello lost possession. The Waterford men couldn’t clear their lines and the ball rolled loose only to be first-timed to the net by Seanie Cahalane: 1-3 to 0-6.

When Damien Cahalane floated over the lead point soon afterwards, the stage was set for Castlehaven to kick on, with their vocal support in the official attendance of 852 given them plenty of encouragement, but Stradbally rallied. Twice they turned over quickly-taken Castlehaven frees, but the wind that helped them in the first half was an obstacle they couldn’t surmount and their two efforts to gain parity went wide.

Mark Collins added a 58th-minute point for Castlehaven, but the game still wasn’t over — Niall Curran’s late response, a pointed free, meant it was a one-point game even as Stradbally attacked in injury time, but Castlehaven kept them at bay.

The West Cork men now face Dr Crokes of Kerry, and as the Castlehaven manager James McCarthy pointed out, the side from the Kingdom would be entitled to the favourites’ tag based on the blue and whites’ performance yesterday. However, it wouldn’t do to understate the conditions and how they influenced both teams. Over the hour players spilled balls and misjudged bounces that would normally have been gathered as a matter of routine; the mere fact that both sides managed one point when facing the breeze is testament to how they both struggled to cope.

As a result, it would be unwise to write Castlehaven off ahead of the club final; normally a side managing six scores in an hour’s play wouldn’t inspire confidence, but along the way they kept their opponents to seven scores. They also have what cliché would describe as a happy knack of scoring opportune goals.

Furthermore, that kind of arm wrestle in the depths of winter, rather than the opportunity to weave pretty patterns in attack, may have been just the challenge needed to deepen Castlehaven’s spirit and resolve for the provincial decider in two weeks.

Scorers for Castlehaven: S Cahalane 1-0, D Cahalane, S Dineen, S Nolan, M Collins, B Hurley 0-1 each.

Scorers for Stradbally: N Curran (1f) and S Aherne (0-1 45, 0-1 f) 0-2 each, P Kiely, G Power, D Grey 0-1 each.

Subs for Castlehaven: S Hurley for Whelton (59).

Subs for Stradbally: S Cunningham for D Grey (47), T Curran for Power (54).

CASTLEHAVEN: P Hurley, D. Limrick, L. Collins, T. O’Leary, C. Hayes, D. Cahalane, R. Whelton, S. Dineen, D. Hurley, S. Cahalane, M. Collins, A. Cahalane, S. Nolan, B. Hurley, S. Hurley.

STRADBALLY: O. Costelloe, A. Doyle, K. Coffey, P. Doyle, T. Grey, E. Rockett, S. Lannon, M. Walsh, D. Grey, P. Kiely, G. Power, J. Coffey, N. Curran, S. Aherne, R. Aherne.

Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary).

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