Hotel Kilmore Senior Football Championship Final
at Kingspan Breffni
Castlerahan’s long-awaited day has finally arrived after a magnificent county final this afternoon.
The Ballyjamesduff men were hot favourites to see off an extremely young Crosserlough side but they were forced to pull out all the stops, coming from six points down with 15 minutes of normal time remaining to close out a famous victory.
Crosserlough had one hand on the Oliver Plunkett Cup when James hit the net in the 45th minute to help them into a 1-12 to 0-9 lead but Castlerahan replied with a goal of their own within a minute and after veteran Sean Brady blasted to the net for their second, they held on, with no score registered on either side in the final 10 minutes (including five minutes of injury time).
At half-time, the underdogs were ahead by the odd point in 13 after a thrilling opening 30 minutes.
Castlerahan got off to a fantastic start when Oisin O’Connell grabbed two passes and slotted over points from both to give his side a 0-2 to 0-0 lead after 70 seconds.
Moments later, they carved out the first goal chance of the contest, with Enda Flanagan caught in two minds as the moment passed and Crosserlough survived what could have been a fatal early blow.
And the youngsters quickly settled, Stephen Smith winning a free which his brother Pierce converted before they, too, had a goal chance, Jamie Leahy saving smartly from Enda Gaffney.
A free from Cian Mackey made it 0-3 to 0-1 on nine minutes but Crosserlough would soon find their groove. Three unanswered points from Pierce Smith (two, one free and one from play) and brother Stephen – a sweet strike from the left of goal – saw the underdogs hit the front for the first time.
Back came Castlerahan with a long-range point from veteran Sean Brady but Crosserlough edged two in front for the first time with Pierce Smith sent over another free and 18-year-old Patrick Lynch converted a 45.
Two frees from Mackey levelled matters once again but Crosserlough weren’t going away and when midfielder Paul McEvoy arrived late to blast over, they went in at half-time holding that one-point advantage.
Crosserlough started the second half on the front foot again and registered two quick scores from Paddy Lynch and the impressive Mark Stuart either side of an important score from Enda Gaffney.
After patient build-up, Oisin O’Connell made it a one-point game but Stephen Smith hit back and Crosserlough, full of confidence, drove on, Stuart adding another before the excellent Pierce Smith curled in an outstanding score to put four between them.
Enda Flanagan held his composure to cut inside and point with the left but when James Smith rounded his man and tucked away for the opening goal of the contest, it seemed as if the cup was returning to Kilnaleck for the first time in 46 years.
Castlerahan, though, had other sides. Within 30 seconds, they had won a penalty when Sean Brady was taken down and although Enda Flanagan’s spot kick was saved, Oisin O’Connell followed up to belt home.
After a short 45, Enda Flanagan added another but although Darren Gaffney conjured up a superb response, the crucial moment arrived in the 21st minute when Mackey and Ronan Flanagan combined to release Brady, who fired a rocket to the net for an excellent goal to tie the game.
With five minutes of normal time remaining, Mackey slotted over a free after a foul on Paul Smith to send Castlerahan into a one-point lead and despite huge pressure from both sides in the closing stages, the winners didn’t put a foot wrong and held on to win a historic first SFC title.
Castlerahan: Jamie Leahy, Stephen Cooney, Fergal Reilly, Enda O’Connell, Paul Smith, Cormac Daly, Enda Flanagan (0-3), David Wright, Pauric Smith, Shane McSweeney, Brian Ennis, Cian Mackey (0-4f), Oisin O’Connell (1-3), Ronan Flanagan, Sean Brady (1-1)
Subs: Karl Cosgrove for Wright (temp, 35 mins), Wright for Cosgrove (38), Cosgrove for Ennis (42)
Crosserlough: Anthony Smith, David Shalvey, Patrick O’Reilly, John Cooke, Mark Stuart (0-2), Dara McVeety, Shane McVeety, James Smith (1-0), Paul McEvoy (0-1), Stephen Smith (0-2), Pierce Smith (0-5, 2f), Darren Gaffney (0-1), Conor Rehill, Enda Gaffney, Patrick Lynch (0-2, 45)
Sub: Barry McKiernan for E Gaffney (57 mins), Brandon Boylan for D Gaffney (57 mins), Eoin Smith for S McVeety (60)
Ref: Conor Dourneen (Ballinagh)