Castlerahan cruise into the semi-finals

Intermediate Football Championship quarter-final

Castlerahan 0-17

Bailieborough Shamrocks 1-5

Eddie Halligan at Kingspan Breffni

Castlerahan took another stride in their quest to return to senior ranks at the first time of asking when they easily accounted for the challenge of Baileborough in the quarter final of the Intermediate championship on Friday night last.

The 2018 and 2019 senior champions rarely had to get out of third gear as they were in control for much of this contest, and even when Baileborough did offer a slight hint of making a game of it early in the second half through a well-taken Luke Gilsenan goal, Castlerahan effortlessly clicked into their groove to pull away.

Their win was littered with impressive performances throughout with Oisin Kiernan superb at centre-back, kicking 0-4, including a super score from the left wing. The David Wright/Cormac Daly axis was very prominent at midfield while Enda Flanagan, Oisin O’Connell and Cian McCabe produced the goods in attack.

In contrast, Baileborough will be extremely disappointed in the way they limped out of this year’s championship. The talk among some before the throw in was that the Shamrocks were coming in under the radar and could potentially cause Castlerahan a few uncomfortable moments under the lights in Kingspan Breffni, especially as this was their third consecutive quarter-final appearance.

However, any hopes of an upset were undone by Baileborough’s wastefulness in possession as they coughed up at least 10 unforced errors, also coupled with the fact that they went long periods without scoring - 30 minutes in the first half and 24 minutes in the second half - which in the end sealed their fate.

The Shamrocks raced out of the traps and began the game with intent when good scores from Ryan Gilmore and Brendan Argue, who was operating as a sweeper, put them 0-2 to 0-0 in front, but Argue’s second-minute score proved to be their last of the half.

Castlerahan slowly settled and levelled matters by the fifth minute through two points from the in-form Oisin O’Connell, including a free, but once Shane O’Reilly punished a mistake in the Baileborough defence to push the men in maroon ahead, it would prove a lead that Castlerahan would not relinquish in the end up.

The game continued to be cagey with aimless wides kicked from both teams but O Connell, who was involved in a good match up with Philip Clarke throughout, collected a pass from Paul Cusack in 16th minute to point over as Baileborough’s unforced error count continued to mount.

Oisin Kiernan swung over the first of his four points when he did well to engineer some space despite pressure from Baileborough defence to make it 0-5 to 0-2, but the Shamrocks did have a goal chance a minute later when Gilmore cut in by the end line and fisted across the square where it seemed inevitable that Michael Argue would get ahead of Fergal Reilly to flick home, but his effort went wide of the post.

Two more Oisin O Connell points drew a drab first half to a close with Castlerahan in control at 0-7 to 0-2 at the interval.

Baileborough began the second half similarly to that of the first half when Michael Argue collected a Rhys Clarke pass in the opening minute to swivel and fire over a good score and the Shamrocks were right back in the contest soon after when Gilsenan collected a skewed Clarke effort to fire a brilliant shot low to the corner of Castlerahan net from the right side of the penalty area. Kiernan replied for Castlerahan to nudge his side in front at 0-8 to 1-3, but evidently, the Baileborough tails were up, and excellent Oran McIntyre point reduced the gap to the minimum.

However, Castlerahan used their experience to draw the sting out of Baileborough’s momentum with Wright and Daly slowly getting on top in midfield whilst Kiernan and Stephen Cooney were consistent in timing their runs from the half back line to aid the Castlerahan attack.

After O’Connell grabbed another score due to a miscommunication in the Baileborough defence, Kiernan kicked over the pick of the scores when he latched onto a pass from Karl Cosgrave to scorch over a super score from inside the ’45, off the left boot from the left wing.

Rory Farrell pointed from a free to leave two in it at 1-5 to 0-10 in the 41st minute as Baileborough kept Castlerahan honest, but from there on in, it was Castlerahan who gradually went through the gears as the Baileborough challenge evidently began to peter out. Points from McCabe (free), Enda Flanagan, a super score from Paul Cusack and fisted point from corner back, Stephen Cooney had Castlerahan comfortably in front at 0-14 to 1-5 with ten minutes remaining.

Both teams rang in the changes with goalkeeper, Conor Gilsenan moved to full forward as Baileborough tried in vain to add some respectability to the score board, but Castlerahan were easing their way over the finishing line and points from Kiernan (’45), Karl Cosgrave and a good score from full back, Fergal Reilly wrapped up a one-sided contest to seal Castlerahan’s place in an intriguing semi-final against Cuchulainns in two weeks’ time.

Castlerahan: Kieran Daly, Stephen Cooney (0-1), Fergal Reilly (0-1), Jamie Reilly, Sean Og McGearty, Oisin Kiernan (0-4, 1 ’45), Paul Cusack (0-1), David Wright, Cormac Daly, Enda O Connell, Enda Flanagan (0-1), Shane O Reilly (0-1), Oisin O Connell (0-5 1f), Cian McCabe (0-2, 2f), Padraig McGahern.

Subs: Karl Cosgrave (0-1) for Shane O Reilly; Jason O Gorman for Padraig McGahern, Euan Henry for Enda O Connell; Eoin McCaul for Enda Flanagan

Baileborough: Conor Gilsenan, Jack Barry, Philip Clarke, Colin Gargan, Aaron Reel, Aidan Reilly, Ryan Gilmore (0-1), Sean Cooney, Peter Clerkin, Brendan Argue (0-1), Luke Gilsenan (1-0), Rhys Clarke, Oran McIntyre (0-1), Michael Argue (0-1), Rory Farrell (0-1, 1f).

Subs: Conor Noone for Peter Clerkin; Ruairi O Sullivan for Brendan Argue; Kevin Brady for Rory Farrell; Luke Sullivan for Colin Gargan