Castlerahan edge out Lavey in epic quarter-final
Flanagan's extra-time goal proves crucial
Paul Fitzpatrick at Kingspan Breffni
Castlerahan came good with a Ronan Flanagan goal in the second half of extra time as they survived one hell of a test against an impressive Lavey side.
Two early goals gave Glen O’Reilly’s men the early initiative but over the 80 minutes, the margins were wafer thin.
By the time of the first water break, it was five scores to four but crucially, Castlerahan had two goals on the board.
The defending champions opened their account after 80 seconds when Cian McCabe, the ‘find of the season’, fired over from play.
Within 30 seconds, the winners had the ball in the net when Oisin O’Connell fielded and laid off for the onrushing Cormac Daly, who took it at full speed and blasted past Conor Martin.
The tempo was high, with both teams looking to attack at pace. With both goalkeepers going long for the most part, the aerial exchanges around the middle were vital and in this sector, Pauric Smith, David Wright and Gerry Smith all impressed.
Lavey pulled two points back through a Chris Conroy free, after a foul on go-to man Shane Tierney, and Darren Jordan from play after a surging run from Karl Duke.
But this Castlerahan side have shown a penchant for scoring goals for many years and they engineered another with their next attack when Enda Flanagan found Oisin O’Connell, who sold a dummy and rolled home a calm finish inside the left post to make it 2-1 to 0-2 with eight minutes played.
Shane Tierney, who had a gripping battle with Enda O’Connell, registered next, with Karl Cosgrove replying. A Cian McCabe free, after a foul on David Wright who was through on goal, was cancelled out by a monster effort from outside the 45 by Gerry Smith as Castlerahan held a five-point lead at the first water break.
By half-time, Lavey had succeeded in shaving just a point off that gap. Fergal Reilly threaded one over from a tight angle and Pauric Smith thumped one over from 45 metres to make it 2-5 to 0-4 before Tierney, through on goal, blasted inches over.
Cormac Daly, from the wing, and Paul Gilchreest, from a goal chance, were next to score. Then, Conroy tacked on a free after a foul on Tierney and the latter broke down a ball which Karl Duke fired over to make it 2-6 to 0-8 at the interval.
The game really came to the boil in the second half. From the throw-in, Cosgrove pointed but at the other end, Gerry Smith, who would go off injured 11 minutes in, sent over a beautiful left-footed score.
Pauric Smith, after a good ball from Padraig McGahern, and that man Tierney traded scores before Enda Flanagan slotted over to put five between them again.
But Lavey made light of the loss of Smith, who was having a terrific game, and Chris Conroy, who was very influential, converted a free and then laid off for Tierney to send over off the left to make it a three-point game at the second water break.
At this stage, Castlerahan lost Fergal Reilly to a black card and during his spell in the sin bin, Lavey profited. Two frees from Conroy either side of a point from play by sub Ray Cullivan left a point in it, with Sean Brady punching one for the Ballyjamesduff men, and just as the match ticked into injury time, sub Peter Smith cut in and belted over a good point to tie the game at 2-10 to 0-16.
There were no scores in the five minutes of tension-filled injury time but Lavey started the first period of extra time best when Conroy found Darren Jordan, who fisted over, and then provided another by winning a turnover which Tierney finished with a super right-footed score.
The gun was to Castlerahan’s head now and they responded like the champions they are. After a sharp turn, Enda Flanagan was fouled and converted but scores were proving hard to come by, with Lavey defending with a ferocious energy.
The New Inns men’s cause wasn’t helped, though, by a black card to Peter Smith and Castlerahan refused to panic. Wright made a huge mark and the ball was worked to Paul Cusack, who kicked a classy score to level the match again but back came Lavey with a magnificent point from Raymond King from outside the 45 which made it 0-19 to 2-12 at half-time in extra time.
Sub Ronan Flanagan was everywhere by now for Castlerahan and he would prove the match-winner. When Oisin Kiernan’s free dropped short and caused confusion, Flanagan pounced, firing a shot to the roof of the net to put the holders two up.
After a turnover, Cosgrove pointed but Duke replied at the other end and then Chris Conroy fired one over from 50 metres, Lavey were back within one.
The clock was against them, though. Their last chance fell to Conroy, a 50-metre free, but he couldn’t send it over and that was that.
This was another memorable instalment between the neighbours, who drew three times in the last three years and were level again here at the end of normal time. The two-time defending champions rode their luck at times but showed their experience and nous when it was needed; Lavey had huge performances from the likes of Tierney, Cusack, Conroy and Gilchreest and deserved something from this one.
That’s not how it works, though, and the champions march on, battle-hardened and as motivated as ever to retain the Oliver Plunkett Cup.
Castlerahan: Kieran Daly, Stephen Cooney, Killian McEnroe, Enda O’Connell, Cormac Daly (1-1), Oisin Kiernan, Fergal Reilly (0-1), David Wright, Pauric Smith (0-2), Karl Cosgrove (0-3), Padraig McGahern, Paul Cusack (0-1), Cian McCabe (0-2, 1f), Enda Flanagan (0-2, 1f), Oisin O’Connell (1-0)
Subs: Ronan Flanagan (1-0) for McEnroe, Sean Brady (0-1) for McCabe, Rory Smith for McGahern, C McCabe for Smith,
Lavey: Conor Martin, Darren Donegan, Joey Jordan, David Conroy, Daragh Tierney, Darren Jordan (0-2), Darren Monahan, Danny Cusack, Paul Gilchreest (0-1), Philip Smith, Karl Duke (0-2), Darragh Conaty, Gerry Smith (0-2), Shane Tierney (0-5), Chris Conroy (0-6, 5f)
Subs: Raymond King for Monahan, Ray Cullivan (0-1) for Smith, Peter Smith (0-1) for J Jordan, J Jordan for Donegan, Aodhagán Sheridan for Philip Smith, E Brady for D Tierney
Ref: Oliver Óg O’Reilly