Castlerahan retain senior crown in tense final
Ramor United 0-10
at Kingspan Breffni
After losing four county finals, including three in a row, in the space of six seasons, the good times are now finally rolling for Castlerahan, who retained their Hotel Kilmore Senior Championship title in a low-scoring, hard-hitting clash at HQ this afternoon.
The Ballyjamesduff-based side, in fact, cannot stop winning – they have now claimed the Senior League and Championship crowns for two years in succession and have proven beyond doubt that they are the best team in the county at present.
They were made to fight all the way for it here, though, against the 2016 winners, who were fired up and came with a clear game plan.
At half-time, the holders were 1-5 to 0-7 in front after a cagey opening 30 minutes.
After a slow and cautious start, Ramor opened the scoring after five minutes with an excellent strike from 40 metres but disaster struck for the Virginia men two minutes later. Mark Magee did well to dispossess Castlerahan captain Ronan Flanagan but Ramor spilled it and livewire Oisin O’Connell was on hand to walk it into the net.
While the first half did not produce much in the way of free-flowing football or entertainment, the clash of styles was intriguing. Ramor were set up defensively and looked to pick off their scores on the counter, utilising Ado Cole where possible.
Castlerahan, meanwhile, were patient in possession as they tried to tease out opportunities. In truth, they cancelled each other out for the most part in the opening exchanges and scores were hard to come by.
In the 15th minute, Ramor finally located Cole – being shadowed by Paul Smith, with Fergal Flanagan mopping up in front of him – on the edge of the D and the big full-forward made no mistake with a well-taken point.
The game caught light momentarily just before half-time. Oisin O’Connell, whose ball-winning was exemplary, set Man of the Match Cormac Daly up for a point but it was quickly cancelled out at the other end by Killian Maguire.
That pattern continued. Cian Mackey set Enda O’Connell up for a confident score to make it 1-2 to 0-3 but, again, Ramor picked out Cole and he slotted over with ease.
Castlerahan strung together two in succession from Shane O’Reilly (free) and Oisin Kiernan, from 40 metres after a line-break from Cian Mackey, but again Ramor hit back through Cathal Maguire and a free from the lively James Brady.
Paul Smith broke forward to fist the next but Ramor had the final say of the half, a 40-metre free from Brady, as they went in a point in arrears.
On the resumption, Donal Keogan’s side had a huge chance to put clear daylight between the teams when Oisin O’Connell played Karl Cosgrove in but the half-forward’s palmed effort struck the wrong side of the upright. It felt like a huge moment but Castlerahan didn’t let it affect them and quickly added the score of the day from Oisin O’Connell from outside the 45.
Ramor hit back with another James Brady point and then a fisted score from Adam O’Connell as tempers spilled over on the sideline. United were emboldened by now and drew level on 40 minutes with a point from full-back Mark Magee.
But for all their momentum, Ray Cole’s troops just could not get their noses in front. Mackey, now stationed in the full-forward line, won the ball well and curled in an outstanding point to seize back the lead.
This slow burner had belatedly come to light but it was a battle of attrition. There was no score between the 43rd and 55th minutes before Cosgrove made up for his missed goal chance earlier with a huge point from the right wing.
The closing stages were intense, error-ridden and exciting as Ramor pushed but Castlerahan, playing in their sixth final in five years including one replay, refused to panic. Deep in injury time, Ramor had chances from a free and a 45 but could not convert and Castlerahan hung on to finish the decade on a high.
Castlerahan: J Leahy, S Cooney, P Smith (0-1), E O’Connell (0-1), S O’Reilly (0-1f), O Kiernan (0-1), F Reilly, F Flanagan (0-1), C Daly (0-1), K Cosgrove (0-1), B Ennis, C Mackey (0-1), E Flanagan, R Flanagan, O O’Connell (1-1)
Subs: B Coleman for O’Reilly (35 mins)
Ramor United: L Brady, Matthew Magee, Mark Magee (0-1), B O’Connell, A O’Connell (0-1), Jack Brady, B Smith, K Maguire (0-1), L Caffrey, E Somerville, S Cadden, C Maguire (0-1), James Brady (0-4, 2f), A Cole (0-2), C Bradley
Subs: R Patterson for Somerville (50 mins), G Mannion for Caffrey (51), S Cole for Mannion (53, BC), M Smart for K Maguire (59), S Keogan for C Maguire (60)
Ref: J McQuillan.