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2009 Minor Hurling Title

CASTLETOWN-GEOGHEGAN’S SUPERIOR CLASS CAPTURES MINOR TITLE (Topic newspaper Thursday 1st October 2009)

Castletown Geoghegan: 1-14            Clonkill: 2-8

Castletown-Geoghegan deservedly collected their fourth minor hurling title when they held off the brave challenge of Clonkill in this interesting and high quality county final which was played in Cusack Park, Mullingar, last Sunday afternoon as a curtain raiser to the senior final.
BY PAUL O'DONOVAN

Castletown, showing superior skill, craft and strength, led from start to finish and really should have had the contest sealed long before the final whistle. However, a lapse of concentration midway through the first half allowed Clonkill in for two goals, and then missed opportunities in the second half could have cost the Black and Amber side dearly, as Clonkill remained strong to the finish, and they could have forced a replay, with just three points dividing the teams at the finish. Castletown made one late replacement to their side, introducing John Heslin to add some bite to their attack, which also contained the prolific Aonghus Clarke and lively Neal Kirby and Niall O’Brien, who were well supported by the industrious Colin O’Brien at midfield and the solid Jordy Cassidy at centre half back. Clonkill produced eight different scorers but lacked a real match winner in attack, despite the exceptional efforts of Anthony Price, Niall Dowdall, Alan McGrath and Cathal Scally further out the field.

CASTLETOWN START BRIGHTLY
Castletown, with a slight wind advantage, opened brightly and laid down a firm marker early on. They led by 1-6 to 0-1 after the first quarter following some very accurate shooting from their cohesive forward line.
Corner forward Niall O'Brien almost sneaked in for a goal in the opening minute but he was thwarted near the goal line as he bore down on goals. However it didn't take long for Castletown to open the scoring with Neal Kirby successful from play and Aonghus Clarke successful with two frees, one from near halfway and the other from 46 meters, to give their side a three-point lead. Seven minutes had elapsed before Clonkill got off the mark following a swift turn and strike by Niall Dowdall. Clonkill should have added to their tally but Paul Poynton went close on a number of occasions to nipping in for a goal, but Castletown escaped, especially when one of their backs cleared off the line from Poynton in a goal-mouth scramble. As it turned out, this was an important clearance for Castletown as they build upon their lead with the strong John Heslin collecting a loose ball and pointing, followed by a 25-metre free converted by Aonghus Clarke.

CASTLETOWN'S CLASS
Castletown's goal on the quarter hour mark was a demonstration of their class, skill and finishing prowess.
Niall O'Brien swiveled inside Kelvin Reilly and Thomas McLoughlin and raced to the end line, and even when Neal Kirby missed his low cross, Aonghus Clarke followed up at the back post to fire first time to the Clonkill net from an acute angle. Within a minute, Colin O’Brien had picked out Clarke again and this time
the full forward scored a fine point while drifting across field.

CLONKILL’S DOUBLE SWOOP
Castletown now led by eight points but within two minutes, Clonkill were right back in contention as they swooped for two quick-fire goals. Firstly, Anthony Price drove a free into the square at crossbar height and Castletown goalkeeper Niall Kelly could only scoop the sliothar into the air. Panic ensued inside the square and Paul Poynton eventually finished to the net from close range. Seconds later, Clonkill were awarded a 28-metre free and Anthony Price drilled it to the net catching the Castletown defence unawares. Suddenly there was only two points in it, I6 to 2-1, but Clonkill's respite was short lived. David Lynch, from the left wing, Aonghus Clarke, from a 25-metre free, and Neal Kirby, despite being under pressure, all scored points for Castletown to immediately cancel out one of the Clonkill goals. Clonkill finished the half strongly though and Enda Morrison curled his effort just inside the far upright, with John Heffernan scoring an excellent point from out on the right wing to keep Clonkill in contention at half time, trailing by just 2-3 to 1-9. Castletown built upon their lead early in the half and with Jordy Cassidy excelling at centre halfback, Clonkill were finding it difficult to break through. Colin O'Brien picked out Aonghus Clarke with another inch perfect pass and Clarke, not as clinical over the hour as in previous contests, didn't need a second attempt on this occasion to turn and point. The inspirational Niall Dowdall replied for Clonkill from 47 meters, but yet again, Jordy Cassidy cleared from defence to find Neal Kirby and Kirby found the range
to restore Castletown's four-point lead. Cathal Scally, who had another solid hour in goals for Clonkill, came to his side's rescue when he scooped the sliothar away from Neal Kirby's shot and Clonkill reduced the margin when Niall Dowdall converted a 60-metre free after Colin O'Brien had received a yellow card having committed the foul. The play deteriorated in the second half following a good opening thirty minutes,
and while John Heslin increased the Castletown lead to four points, there were no further scores for a twelve-minute period.

SCALLY SAVES
However chances did go a begging during this period with Heslin being denied a goal by Thomas Egan's defensive block and Neal Kirby denied on two occasions by the alert reactions of Cathal Scally, with Conor Keegan following up with a disappointing wide. At the other end, Aonghus Clarke slotted over a 44-metre free following a foul on Niall O'Brien, leaving Pat O'Brien's side five points ahead. Clonkill really required a goal and Enda Morrison almost grabbed it, but he saw his effort flash by the near post and they had to settle for a long range point from Kelvin Reilly who pointed despite being under pressure. Time was running out but Castletown still couldn't put the game in the bag as Cathal Scally denied John Heslin another goal, this time at his near post. As the game entered its final minutes, Kelvin Reilly found Conor Thompson
who pointed to leave just three points dividing, and with referee Mick Mannion announcing four minutes of time to be added, Clonkill hung onto some brief hope. To their own disappointment and through sheer fatigue, Clonkill conceded a free by holding John Heslin and then conceded 13-metres for dissent, giving Aonghus Clarke the opportunity to slot over the insurance point from just 30-metres.Clonkill's final effort came when Anthony Price dropped a hopeful free into the square and as Castletown struggled to clear, substitute Ciaran Morrison pulled on the sliothar off the ground, but could only drive it over the crossbar.
There wasn't even time to puck out the ball as the final whistle sounded and Castletown were celebrating a deserved but hard earned victory for this young side. Apart from Castletown's victory, this game proved there were some very young talented hurlers on both sides and when nurtured together, they can provide the basis for a good county side in the years ahead.

SCORERS- Castletown-Geoghegan: Aonghus Clarke (1-8, 0-6 from frees), Neal Kirby (0-3), John Heslin (0-2), David Lynch (01). Clonkill: Niall Dowdall (0-3, 01 from a free), Paul Poynton (1-0), Anthony Price (1-0 from a free), Enda Morrison (0-1), John Heffernan (0-1), Kelvin Reilly (01), Conor Thompson (0-1), Ciaran
Morris(0-1).

CASTLETOWN-GEOGHEGAN: Niall Kelly; Ciaran McDonald, Dermot Garvin, Dean McDermott; David Fennell, Jordy Cassidy Capt, Paul Fennell; Colin O'Brien, Darren Ruane; David Lynch, John Heslin, Conor Keegan; Neal Kirby, Aonghus Clarke, Niall O'Brien. Subs: Kieran Glennon for Ciaran McDonald (34 mins), Ciaran McDonald for Dean McDermott (inj, 46 mins), Luke Kelly for David Lynch (59 mins). Owen Whelan, Luke Cassidy, Owen Quinn & Michael Dever.
CLONKILL: Cathal Scally; John Egan, Sean McCormack, Thomas McLoughlin; Kelvin Reilly, Alan McGrath, Thomas Egan; Conor Thompson, Anthony Price; Niall Dowdall, Hugh Gaffney, John Heffernan; Enda Morrison, Niall Folan, Paul Poynton. Subs: Ciaran Morrison for Sean McCormack (40 minutes), Daniel Sheridan for Thomas McLoughlin (49 minutes).

SCORES:
Castletown: Aonghus Clarke 1-8 5 frees, Neal Kirby 0-3, John Heslin 0-2, David Lynch 0-1
Clonkill: Niall Dowdall 0-3 1 free, Anthony Price & Paul Poynton 1-0 each, Kelvin Reilly, Conor Thompson, Enda Morrison, John Heffernan and Ciaran Morrison 0-1 each.

A CLOSER LOOK

MAN OF THE MATCH
While there were some fine forwards on view, Jordy Cassidy at centre half back for Castletown-Geoghegan was solid throughout, especially in the first half when he read the game very well and made some very telling clearances.
SCORE OF THE MATCH
John Heffernan's point in the final minutes of the first half was the pick of the bunch, scoring from out on the right wing to keep his Clonkill side in touch.
SAVE OF THE MATCH
Cathal Scally proved he is the best young keeper around by denying Castletown on several occasions, but his double save from Neal Kirby in the second half showed his true class.
TURNING POINT
The introduction of John Heslin to the Castletown side before the start was a shrewd move by the Castletown mentors.
TALKING POINT
With so many of these Castle-town players underage again next year, they could dominate this grade for a number of years.

SLICKER CASTLETOWN TOO GOOD FOR WASTEFUL CLONKILL
Westmeath Examiner Sat Oct 3rd 2009.

AFTER a thoroughly entertaining Minor Final in Cusack Park Mullingar on Sunday afternoon last, the hurlers of Castletown recaptured the Minor title after a 5 year wait and in truth they were the better team and indeed the scoreline probably does little justice to the amount of possession mid territory that the Black and Ambers had. However they were put to the pin of their collar by a dogged and determined Clonkill side that battle manfully and who, if they just had a tad more belief, may have turned the favourites over. As it was they wasted far too many chances and their final ball was poor and that was mirrored by a Castletown attack that knew exactly where the goals were and punished their opponents for their paucity.
Castletown owned the ball at times and rained down attack after attack on a beleaguered Clonkill defence but in Alan McGrath, Kelvin Reilly and Anthony Price they found a solid wall of Green and Gold and but for some superb hurling by the inside forwards this game could have gone anyway at all. But they say the cream will always rise to the top and although Clonkill were heroic it would only be the most ardent and myopic of their fans who would deny that Castletown were the better team throughout and despite several scares they brought the Ben Kelly Memorial Cup back.

Castletown had a change to their starting 15 even before the off when John Heslin replaced Kieran Glennon and even his presence seemed to lift those around him. Castletown started in whirlwind fashion and after Niall O'Brien was denied a goal by some tremendous Clonkill defending but it was Neal Kirby that got the ball rolling when he pointed from some great work by Colin O'Brien at the middle of the field. Aonghus Clarke doubled that advantage with a free almost from the half way line that sailed between the sticks and on 6 minutes the same player made it there points to nil after harsh call on Thomas McLoughlin for over carrying. It was a full 7 minutes before Clonkill got on the scoreboard but it was worth waiting for as Niall Dowdall went through numerous tackles and fell and regained his balance several times to score a wonderful point and they could have had two goals in quick succession with chances from Paul Poynton and Enda Morrison but the final flick or tap was just not there.

Heslin pounced on some poor defending before Clarke pointed another free after another needless Clonkill foul. The game then turned on its head when Niall O'Brien burst through the Clonkill defence only to see his effort turned away by Cathal Scally in the Clonkill goal but Aonghus Clarke was in the right place at
the right time and flicked the ball into an empty net to put clear daylight between the sides. When the same player pointed superbly while on the run it looked as if Castletown would rout Clonkill but then the boys in Green and Gold began to stand up and if they were going down then they were going down fighting. Anthony Price sent a 65 right into the danger area and Castletown goalie Niall Kelly could only tap it up and across his square but Paul Poynton was on hand to flick the ball to the net to bring a chink of light to his team and when Price himself stepped up moments later to take a 21 yard free he had simply one thing on his mind and that was to strike for goal and his unstoppable shot flew into the back of the net to leave just two between the sides.

David Lynch settled the nerves for Castletown when he profited from a defensive mistake from Clonkill to notch up a point and moments later Clarke added another free as Castletown seemed to have weathered the storm. When Neal Kirby struck for a fine point after being put under serious pressure there were five again between the sides and again the game looked beyond Clonkill even at this early stage but to their credit they battled back considerably and points from Enda Morrison and John Heffernan, both superb strikes, left the half time score 1-9 to 2-3 in Castletown's favor.

After the break the game became slightly disjointed and in truth some of the hurling was scrappy and poor in the extreme at times but Clarke kept the Castletown momentum going when interchanged with a short free by Darren Ruane and slotted superbly over the bar. Niall Dowdall cancelled that one out for Clonkill when he hit a monster strike from at least half way but at the other end Castletown were far more clinical when in sight of the goal and when Kirby pointed superbly on 38 minutes it looked at last as if the Castletown boys would pull away but Niall Dowdall did the necessary this time with a beautiful score
from a long range free. Conor Keegan broke through for Castletown moments later and his superb cross field ball found Heslin on his own and the dual star made no mistake and pointed. He should have had another moments later but chose to go for goal and his shot was brilliantly blocked by wing back Thomas Egan and then Neal Kirby was denied another goal when Cathal Scally in the Clonkill goal denied him
and in the following goal-mouth scramble McGrath cleared brilliantly only to see a soft free conceded on Niall O'Brien and Clarke duly dispatched the free over the bar.

Enda Morrison should have got one back but his effort drifted wide after great work and then McGrath missed a long range free to narrow the gap even further but Kelvin Reilly did point for Clonkill with a fantastic point that he made look very easy. At the far end Scally made another fine save from Heslin and on the break out Price made it a three point game with a fabulous strike after serious pressure from the Castletown defence. Alas time was running out for Clonkill while going for the equaliser they left gaps at the back and when Darren Ruane was hauled down unceremoniously it was Clarke who stepped up to put daylight between the sides with the game in added time. Clonkill had one last chance when Price landed the ball on the Castletown 21 yard line and when sub Ciaran Morrison whipped on the ball he was unlucky to see it go over rather than under the bar and moments later referee Mick Mannion blew the final whistle and Castletown were champions. The scenes at the final whistle were tantamount to the relief and joy of
the Castletown faithful who have waited five years for the Cup to reutn and their very progressive underage policy is now paying dividends. Dermot Garvin, David Fennel and particularly Jordy Cassidy were superb in defence while O'Brien and Darren Ruane more than held their own at midfield. Up front Clarke, Kirby, Heslin and Lynch were always looking for the ball and they kept a strong Clonkill defence busy throughout. McGrath, Reilly, Price or Thompson could not be faulted for their efforts for Clonkill but they lacked a cutting edge and they struggled up front to convert possession into scores while their opponents used many of their chances. Castletown powered through when it mattered and even with a young side, they
always looked far too good for Clonkill and in the end they were thoroughly deserving of the Ben Kelly Cup. Afterward team captain Jordy Cassidy accepted the Cup and gave one of the better speeches by a winning captain in many a long day.
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