Éire Óg 4-6
Castletown-Liam Mellows (Wexford) 1-10
By Kieran Murphy
EARLY in this Leinster club senior football championship first round game at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday the Carlow champions looked like a side who were going to have a serious go at winning a provincial championship.
After falling behind to a point on 38 seconds from Jonathan Bealin, they simply went up a gear and tore the opposition defence apart. It was wonderful to watch. Even Chris Blake’s equaliser had a sense of wonder to it when, under pressure and falling backwards, he somehow got enough force and elevation on his shot to land the equaliser. A minute later Sean Gannon posted a point and from there Éire Óg were never headed.
Better than that, they scored three goals in six minutes. The first saw Cormac Mullins off-load to Blake who in turn slipped the ball back to him and from close range the corner forward found the net. The second goal came from a thundering Jordan Morrissey run. Keeper Anthony Masterson could only parry the shot and on the edge of the small square, Morrissey didn’t miss the second time.
Éire Óg had a lucky escape when Colm Morris came through but the centre-back’s shot was saved by Ricky Keating. Probably miffed to almost concede a goal at that stage, Éire Óg hit back and a quick free to Blake saw the corner forward easily find the net. He could have had another three-pointer shortly afterwards but his shot was blocked by goalkeeper Anthony Masterson.
Castletown were visibly reeling. They were there for the taking. In a 10-minute spell following the third Éire Óg goal, the home side continued to drive forward. They had chances for points but went for goals. Passes were not executed well while their decision making was suspect to say the least. Blake also missed a sitter of a dead ball. No doubt Gannon, who had taken a heavy hit to earn the free, wouldn’t have seen the funny side.
Gradually Castletown nosed their way back into the game. At half-time Éire Óg led by 3-4 to 0-4 which gave their opponents half a chance of closing the deficit.
Just as he did in the opening half, Bealin scored a point within a minute of the throw-in for Castletown. Morrissey replied with a simple point and one waited for Éire Óg to reassert themselves. They never really did. In shades of their county final performance against Palatine last year, they played keep ball and never put any decent moves together in the second half.
Overall they conceded 10 frees with Bealin only too happy to add to his total, finishing the game with eight points. In contrast Éire Óg continued to run up blind alleys and Castletown lured them into situations where the home side were unable to retain possession.
The Wexford champions suffered a body blow when Colm Morris picked up a second yellow card in the final quarter for taking out Sean Gannon who threatened to hone in on goal. Chris Blake scored Éire Óg’s fourth goal around then. That should have given the home side a chance to open up. Instead they conceded a goal when Robbie Brooks broke clear down the left at the Dublin end of the ground and his shot beat Ricky Keating all ends up.
It was too little, too late for Castletown who kept driving forward to the end. Éire Óg didn’t look comfortable in those final minutes. Only they themselves will know if they were holding a bit in reserve for Kildare champions Sarsfields in two weeks’ time. From the terraces it didn’t look like that.
Éire Óg: Ricky Keating; Richie Mahon, Mark Fitzgerald, Benny Kavanagh; Jordan Lowry, Mark Furey, Paul McElligott; Jordan Morrissey (1-1), Eoghan Ruth; Sean Gannon (0-1), Darragh O’Brien (0-1), Recce Denieffe; Chris Blake (2-2, 0-1 frees), Derek Hayden, Cormac Mullins (1-1). Subs: Ross Dunphy for Denieffe (37 mins) Colm Hulton for Hayden (37 mins), Niall Quinlan for Mullins (49 mins), Kelvin Chatten for O’Brien (60 mins), Evan Kelly for Mahon (60 mins).
Castletown: Anthony Masterson; Joe Ahern, Joe Gardiner, Frank Roche; Conor Carty, Colm Morris (0-1), Danny Gardiner; Rory Heffernan, Liam Coleman; James Holmes, Donnacha Holmes, Brendan Halpin; Jonathan Bealin (0-8, 0-6 frees), Ben Brosnan (0-1), Jody Shaughnessy. Subs: Colin Kennedy for J. Gardiner (17 mins), Darragh Brooks for Masterson (19 mins), Richard Farrell for Shaughnessy (h/t), Robbie Brooks (1-0) for Farrell (33 mins), Oisin Condren (56 mins).
Referee: Fergal Smyth (Offaly).