Castletown-Geoghegan 1-8 Raharney 1-7
August 26th was D-Day for the hurlers of Castletown Geoghegan and Raharney. Castletown were appearing in their 20th senior final and were utterly determined to erase the memories of the 1989 final, when they were outclassed by Brownstown.
The players felt that they had not done themselves justice in the '89 final. Their determination to take the Westmeath Examiner Cup back to the village was absolute, and it needed to be. But determination alone does not win championship finals and they knew that they would have to produce a performance out of the
top drawer to overcome the Deelsiders. The build-up to the final was tense and exciting with Raharney emerging as slight favorites’ in the eyes of the Westmeath hurling fraternity. But Castletown were quietly confident, they were at peak fitness, thanks to Clara native Jim Roche and the scene was set for what everybody hoped, would be a fascinating final. The crowd had hardly settled after Amhran na bhFiann when the ball was being plucked from the back of the Castletown net. Raharney's Larry Giles had shot a free towards John Jackson's goalmouth. The backs scrambled the sliotar outwards but from twenty meters, Declan Weir connected and the green flag went up. A disastrous start for Castletown-Geoghegan!
The Raharney flags were being waved with great gusto, it was the ideal start for the men in blue. Two minutes later, Castletown's Joe Clarke was fouled and his brother, Eamonn, the championship's leading scorer, punished the offence with a point from the resultant thirty metre free. Within a minute, Mattie Mullen won a race for possession and pointed for the Deelsiders. Almost immediately the same player repeated the dose and Raharney were looking sharp. The exchanges were tense, and both sides missed chances which would have been easily converted in a game other than the county final.
At this stage however, the Castletown- Geoghegan mentors decided to act. Pat O'Brien was moved from attack to the right full back position, with Michael Bolger being "sprung" from the bench to replace the unlucky Martin Keenan. O'Brien's presence in the Castletown defense had a settling effect on his colleagues and it turned out to be a master stroke by the backroom team. Eamon Clarke pointed a free when Larry Giles picked the sliotar off the ground and goalkeeper John Jackson proved his worth, when saving twice from the Raharney forwards, whose early confidence was diminishing rapidly.
Ten minutes from half time, full forward Frank Keegan pointed for Castletown but Raharney replied immediately with a similar score from Noel Croash. Michael Riggs then pointed a free for the Deelsiders when Sean Greville was fouled, but Eamon Clarke kept the black and ambers in touch with a pointed free when Frank Keegan was fouled. Just on half-time, substitute Michael Bolger scored a vital point, reducing the arrears to only two points. This score was a psychologically important one. The deficit was now at its lowest since the second minute and although they were trailing, the Castletown-Geoghegan players were in no way despondent as they headed off the field for the interval. The half-time score was: Raharney 1-4, Castletown-Geoghegan 0-5.
The Raharney team stayed on the field at half-time, and they too were feeling quietly confident of success. They would have the slight advantage of the breeze in the second-half and they had a small "cushion" of two points. Neutrals, however felt that Castletown had overcome the trauma of conceding an early goal and had taken remedial action to mend a defense which was somewhat leaky in the first quarter. Ger Jackson was beginning to "Lord it" in the middle of the park, while his partner, Jimmy Maloney was providing valuable assistance. The Mullingar Town Band played on for longer than their scheduled time at the break, and thirty, already tense hurlers had their nerves tried further by this unfortunate miscalculation. Thirty minutes to go, two points between the teams and the destination of the Westmeath Examiner Cup was still to be decided. When the same eventually restarted, it was the Castletown side that adopted the
more business-like approach. Michael Bolger, who had scored the important point before the interval, added two more, in the first and fifth minutes. The sides were now level for the first time in the match and an air of expectation and excitement circled Cusack Park. Bolger's influence was such that many wondered why by he was not in Castletown's starting line-up. The opportunity to take the lead for the
first time proved too much even for the experienced Ger Jackson, who missed an easy free.
Again the Castletown selectors moved to create some impetus in their side. Finbar Clarke replaced his brother Joe, while Raharney’s mentors also replaced the out of touch John Flemings, with the attack being reshuffled substantially. Castletown applied a great deal of pressure but Raharney stood firm. Midway through the half, both Sean Greville and Noel Croash fumbled a glorious opportunity for Raharney. The game was devoid of scores from the fifth until the eighteenth minute and it was at this stage, twelve minutes remaining and the sides level, that the game’s vital score was recorded. Michael Bolger again caused havoc in the Blue's defense. However, a goalmouth clearance only came out as far as Fabian McLavin who, to the delight of Castletown's supporters, lashed the sliotar to the back of the Raharney net. The lead for the first time and at a vital stage too! Castletown then went on the rampage in an attempt to seal Raharney's fate, but despite the efforts of the outstanding Bolger, the Deelsiders refused to capitulate. While their resilience was very much in evidence so too was the over-eagerness of the Castletown men. With four minutes remaining Finbar Clarke, after excellent work by Frank Keegan, shot the "insurance" point.
With time ticking away, Raharney staged a late, late rally. Sean Greville opted to go for a goal from a free, but the resolute Castletown defense scrambled the sliotar away. Noel Croash collected, and sent it between the posts. One goal between the sides! With less than a minute of normal time remaining substitute John O'Donoghue pointed for the spirited Raharney side. The dying seconds were played out in a frenzy of excitement with both sets of supporters roaring their encouragement. O'Donoghue gained possession again and was fouled. Michael Riggs took the free but struck the upright. The rebound favored the Castletown backs and it was then obvious that the Gods were smiling on the black and amber brigade. And still the final whistle wasn't blown! Raharney tried and tried to rescue the game. Veteran full forward, Sean Greville attempted to charge through but was forced to pass to Declan Weir who duly pointed. But it was a goal that was required and from the puck out, referee Jimmy Cribben signaled the end of the match, to the utter relief of the Castletown-Geoghegan players, officials and supporters. The final score was: Castletown-Geoghegan 1-8, Raharney 1-7.
Amidst great scenes of delight, the County Board Chairman, Mr. Seamus Whelan presented the Westmeath Examiner Cup to the winning captain, Ger Jackson and nobody deserved the honor more. The experienced campaigner was an inspiring figure throughout, not only commanding his own area, but falling back in defense when help was needed in that sector. His deft deliveries also, helped to maximise the pressure on the Raharney defense and all the while, he marshaled his team, not only with words of encouragement, but also with his example. John Jackson was a reliable goalkeeper, who could not be faulted for the Raharney goal. In front of him, Noel Geraghty at full back completely contained the menace
of Sean Greville, while on either side of him Liam Glennon and Pat O'Brien curtailed the threat of the Raharney corner forwards. Michael Lowry was outstanding throughout, in the right half back position, while Gerry Whelan and Gerry Daly, settled to their tasks commendably after the opening few" minutes. Jackson was the hero of the hour at midfield with his partner Jimmy Maloney covering acres of ground. Michael Bolger was the star of the attack; Fabian McLavin took his goal brilliantly, while Paddy Corcoran tried hard to counter the effectiveness of Raharney's Larry Giles. The full forward line of Eamon Clarke, Frank Keegan and Joe Clarke had an extremely difficult hour against the sturdy Raharney full-back line, but their efforts created some of the scoring opportunities for the half forward. Substitute Finbar Clarke took his all-important point in clinical fashion.
The winners' scorers were: Fabian McLavin (1-0). Eamon Clarke (0-3), Michael Bolger (0-3), Frank Keegan (0-1) and Finbar Clarke (0-1).
The team lined out as follows: John Jackson, Liam Glennon. Noel Geraghty, Martin Keenan, Michael Lowry, Gem, Whelan, Gerry Daly, Jimmy Maloney, Ger Jackson, Fabian McLavin, Paddy Corcoran, Pat O'Brien, Eamon Clarke, Frank Keegan and Joe Clarke. Substitutes: Michael Bolger for Martin Keenan and Finbar Clarke for Joe Clarke.
The selectors were Dermot Garvin, Sean Keegan and Sean Kirby.