Stalemate between senior heavyweights
ACFL Division 1
Paul Fitzpatrick at Dr Plunkett Park
A late point from Oisin Kiernan saw Castlerahan earn a draw in this entertaining opening round clash in Kilnaleck on Sunday.
Much of the talk in the lead-up to the return to action surrounded the players Castlerahan have lost. The two-time defending champions are down up to half a dozen of their starting team but they showed here that the resilience they showed when coming back from four county final defeats to win the big one twice has not dimmed.
Crosserlough started better and after 10 minutes, points from Shane McVeety (two) and Darren Gaffney saw them into a two-point lead, with Karl Cosgrove registering from a free at the other end.
Despite the sunny conditions, a swirling breeze made things difficult. It seemed to favour Castlerahan in the first half and they twice made it count in fine style.
Cormac Daly drove on to a Crosserlough kick-out and powered through, finding Enda Flanagan (above) who rifled a great shot to the roof of the net for their first goal and another followed when a long ball was delivered to the full-forward line and Oisin O’Connell got behind John Cooke and buried it.
After the water break, Stephen Smith converted a free from the deck and Brandon Boylan added another from play. Castlerahan by this stage had lost Flanagan and Stephen Cooney to injury and while they pulled one back when David Wright’s kick was half-blocked and Padraig McGahern grabbed the rebound to slot over, the hosts had the final say of the first half.
Peter Smith fielded well in front of goal and laid off for brother James, who planted his shot in the bottom corner of the net to leave it all square, 2-2 to 1-5, at the short whistle.
Youngsters Emmett and Cian Boylan, the latter a fisted effort, were on the mark on the resumption before Wright pulled one back. James Smith sent over a fantastic kick from the left wing, having been forced to go wide by the well-organised visitors’ defence, but Crosserlough were in the ascendancy and added points from Stephen Smith and Shane McVeety (his third).
Back came Castlerahan with a McGahern free to make it a one-point game again, with Crosserlough goalkeeper Brian Malloca saving smartly from Oisin O’Connell.
By now, tempers were spilling over, with a couple of yellow cards handed out following a fracas in front of the Castlerahan dug-out.
Kieran Daly did well to keep out a shot from James Smith before McGahern again converted a free, this time after a foul on the lively O’Connell.
Oisin Kiernan was taken down for the next which Cosgrove swung in perfectly as the Ballyjamesduff men upped the ante and deep in injury time, they were rewarded when Kiernan came up with an excellent point under pressure.
In the end, stalemate was probably a fair result. Crosserlough will point to the absence of key forwards Patrick Lynch and Pierce Smith while Dara McVeety is away travelling; Castlerahan, for their part, had a patched up look about them as well.
While this was merely shadow-boxing – literally, at times – both sides will know that improvement will be needed in a couple of weeks’ time.
Castlerahan: Kieran Daly, Stephen Cooney, Killian McEnroe, Enda O’Connell, Cormac Daly, Oisin Kiernan (0-1), Fergal Reilly, David Wright (0-1), Pauric Smith, Paul Cusack, Enda Flanagan (1-0), Padraig McGahern (0-2, 1f), Cian McCabe, Karl Cosgrove (2f), Oisin O’Connell (1-0)
Subs: Euan Henry, Sean Brady
Crosserlough: Brian Malocca, John Cooke, Patrick O’Reilly, David Shalvey, Mark Stuart, Conor Rehill, Shane McVeety (0-3), James Smith (1-1), Cian Boylan (0-1), Shane McManus, Brandon Boylan (0-1), Darren Gaffney (0-1), Emmett Boylan (0-1), Stephen Smith (0-2, 1f), Peter Smith
Subs: Ryan Galligan, Adrian Smith, Eoin Smith
Ref: Pat Clarke