Castlemartyr GAA Notes

05 September, 2010




In a tension packed, yet thrilling East Cork final, Castlemartyr dug deep in to their deep reservoir of courage and commitment, to see off the challenge of an equally committed Dungourney side, and in doing so created their own bit of history in registering back to back East Cork titles for the first time since 1951-52.

In truth this match could have gone either way, and as the Dungourney men pressed hard for a winning goal deep into injury time, it took some heroic defending from the Reds rearguard to repel their advances. But when Cathal McAllister finally blew his whistle after 64 minutes of throbbing excitement, it was the Castlemartyr men who had their noses in front.

I suppose we should have known in hind-sight, that pre-match predictions of Dungourney goal –fests, and exhibitions of point scoring from Castlemartyr, was never going to happen in a local derby on East Cork final day. Both sets of teams knew each other’s play so well, that there was always going to be a lot of “cancelling out”, and not an inch of room to spare on the field. The exchanges were tough, but very fair, and every single score was hard earned, but when the match looked liked ending in stalemate, it was Brian Lawton who ultimately proved to be the difference between the sides. He took a vice like grip on proceedings for the last ten minutes, winning some vital possessions, and driving his team forward. His clever use of the ball, then created the precious bit of space needed for Jimmy Smiddy to seal the deal, and propel the Reds in front with the finishing post in sight. A superb victory indeed, but spare a thought for the gallant losers Dungourney, who lost nothing in defeat, and will surely be back to claim another East Cork of their own in the near future.

Castlemartyr started at a blistering pace and had a score on the board inside the first minute when Eddie Clifford rifled over a fine point. A minute later a sublime Adrian Bowens point, from a free, all of ninety yards out by the touchline, put the Reds two in front and the nerves appeared to be settled. The Reds had the advantage of a nice breeze at this stage, and it was obvious that their clearances were going a good distance.

Slowly but surely though, Dungourney got a grip on the game and started to take over. The next fifteen minutes proved to be their finest patch of the game as they notched a whopping 1-4 without reply. Points on the 5th, 12th and 13th minutes put them a point in front, and when John Hickey pounced for a well taken goal on the 16th minute their tails were up. Another point a minute later, gave them a healthy 5 point advantage, and the future looked green and gold. Castlemartyr throughout this period had plenty of possession, but perhaps through some over elaborate play, found themselves being dispossessed time and time again by some tenacious Dungourney defending. Also Castlemartyr were guilty of some wayward shooting, and of dropping short balls into the grateful Kevin Hegarty in goals for Dungourney.

The Reds had not scored for all of 20 minutes, when Man of the Match Adrian Bowens lifted the siege with a huge point from long distance, his second of the game. Adrian has played many fine games in both codes for Castlemartyr, down throughout the years, but this display must surely rank as his greatest yet. Operating at number 7, his reading of the game was immense, and he cleared countless balls during the hour, each one a miler. At the end of the day, his two points from wing back, was the difference between the sides, and he was a richly deserving, and popular winner of the Man of the Match Award.

A Dungourney free on the 23rd minute stretched their lead to 1-5 to 0-3, but Castlemartyr finished the half the brighter, with a Jimmy Smiddy free, and a fine Barry Lawton point who eventually broke free from the shackles of Eoin Ahern, to leave just a goal between the sides at the break.

At half time there was no panic in the Castlemartyr dressing room. A year ago in Rostellen 5 points had been the deficit and that had been wiped out after 5 minutes, so there was no sense of crisis. It was definitely an advantage to be able to draw on that type of experience, but none of that would be any good, without putting the words into action

Castlemartyr facing into the breeze for the second half, started with great purpose, and enjoyed a large amount of possession. Unfortunately this was not translated on to the scoreboard and it was the men in green and gold that registered the first score, with a point on the 35th minute, after their first attack of the half. Barry Lawton hit back with his second point of the evening, three minutes later, and both sides swopped points on the 40th minute to make it 1-7 to 0-7 at this stage.

In a game like this, three points was a healthy lead, and one felt that it would need the injection of a goal from the Reds, to drive on to victory. That boost was delivered on the 42nd minute, when goal poacher supreme, Evan O Keeffe stormed through the Dungourney rearguard to bat an unstoppable ball to the net. The sides were level again, and it was game on.

For the next 7 minutes the game ebbed and flowed, without any score being registered. Castlemartyr enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but were guilty of some wayward shooting. Even the usually reliable Jimmy Smiddy was inaccurate from placed balls, but on the 49th minute he put the Reds ahead for the first time since the 12th minute, after being released by the increasingly influential Brian Lawton.

Straightaway though, Dungourney replied with two points of their own, to put themselves ahead, entering the final straight. The game was at its most critical phase, and it was now that Brian Lawton decided to take it by the scruff of the neck. Having been well marshalled previously by Martin Wall, Brian finally cut loose, and time after time he fielded high balls in his own half back line. Driving forward then, he was able to release players in more favourable positions, and it was out of one such move that Jimmy Smiddy equalised on the 56th minute.

Excitement was now at fever pitch. It was anybody’s match now, and I’d say smart money would have been on a draw. Every ball was fought for with ferocious intensity, as both sides went in search of victory. Castlemartyr leaped for joy when “the old reliable” Jimmy Smiddy gave us a precious one point lead, with a minute to go, and a minute into injury time young Barry Lawton nailed on another to give us a bit more breathing space. It was now “the dangerous two point lead” and Dungourney went for the winning goal, which would break Castlemartyr hearts. Thankfully from a Reds point of view, the Castlemartyr defence were up to the challenge, successfully defending a couple of high balls into the square, in the final couple of minutes of the game. Then Cathal blew the whistle, and the invasion began.

Having waited 45 years to win one East Cork, it felt surreal to be celebrating a second one only 12 months later. The joy among the team and supporters was amazing. Team captain, Peter Horgan, hit the right notes in his acceptance speech, paying tribute to the gallant Dungourney team, who had come so close to winning the cup. On another day, it could have been them who could have being celebrating, and we would have to watch on. Great credit is due to Dungourney and their many supporters, who stayed around for the presentation, and were generous in their congratulations afterwards.

To sum it all up, it was looking back, a marvellous occasion. A packed, well prepared Killeagh venue, witnessed a full blooded encounter between a divided parish, and got their money’s worth. Both sets of backs dominated proceedings, but some flashes of individual brilliance from the likes of Jimmy Smiddy, Evan O Keeffe and Barry Lawton unlocked these defences at critical times.

The Castlemartyr rearguard can be especially proud. Coming into the game, most of the talk centered around the Dungourney goal scoring threat, and it is to the eternal credit of David Fleming, Ollie Smiddy, Rob O Donavan and Barra O Tuama that they were limited to only one goal. This full back line had a fantastic game, under some serious pressure, and was instrumental in deciding the outcome of this match.

If the full back line were superb, then the half back line were equally so. Adrian Bowens had the game of his life and was a worthy winner of the Star Homes Man of the Match award. Darragh O Keeffe played his best game in many years for the club, and his many relieving clearances took some serious pressure off his defence. Brian Smiddy ran the show in the number 6 shirt, and is clearly revelling in the centre back role at this stage.

The man with the torn hamstring Peter Horgan defied medical science by playing and relished leading his team into battle. His physical presence was vital around the middle of the field, and he had given his all, as usual, when he was finally called ashore. His partner Brian Lawton, we have already eulogised. This man is the heartbeat of the side. When he starts to motor, the whole team takes off, and his final burst at the end, proved to be the main difference between the sides.

Jimmy Smiddy ,as usual ,was coolness personified. Having uncharacteristically missed a few frees, he was non plussed, and when the scores were wanted at the end, he held his nerve, to pull us over the line. Seanie Hennessy did Trojan work at centre forward. His main brief was to stop the supply of ball coming out of their defence, and this he did with all of his might. Brian O Tuama too, played his part and did well when he moved out around the middle of the field.

Eddie Clifford was a bundle of energy as usual, and got us off the mark with the first score, while there would be no” New Jamsey” in Castlemartyr this year ,without the vital goal, that only Evan O Keefee could have scored. And young Barry Lawton? Only 17 andafter 2 Final stormers. On a night where backs were on top, and marking a sticky corner back like Eoin Ahern, he managed to finish with a whopping 4 points. Truly extraordinary! Mark Bowens provided a much needed focal point for the attack too when he came on, and was first to every ball that came his way.

So lads celebrate this. They don’t come around too often. But knowing the ambition that flows through this team, they are going to give the County a mighty crack this year.

CASTLEMARTYR: D Fleming; O Smiddy, R O’Donovan, Barra O’Tuama; D O’Keefe, B Smiddy, A Bowens; P Horgan(Cpt) Brian Lawton; J Smiddy, S Hennessy, Brian O’Tuama; Barry Lawton, E O’Keefe, E Clifford.

Sub: M Bowens for P Horgan (38)

Scorers for Castlemartyr: J Smiddy and Barry Lawton 0-4 each, E O’Keefe 1-0, A Bowens 0-2 (1f) E Clifford 0-1

DUNGOURNEY: K Hegarty; A Kelleher, M Hegarty, E Ahern; J Ronayne, J Leahy, D Ahern; M Wall, B Rodgers; Kenneth Kelleher, Kevin Kelleher, S Casey; K Rohan, F Hegarty, J Hickey.

Subs: M Hickey for John Hickey (Half time) P Kelleher for K Rohan (48) M Hennessy for B Rodgers (57)

Dungourney: S Casey 0-5 (3f) J Hickey 1-0, M Wall and Kevin Kelleher 0-2 each