at O Raghallaigh Park
Castlerahan fired over 1-18 from play as they secured their place in the county final for the fourth year in succession after this enthralling and high-quality semi-final at Kingscourt on Saturday.
Donal Keogan’s side looked set to romp home when they eased into a nine-poiont lead (1-12 to 0-6) a couple of minutes into the second half but Lavey, led by the excellent Shane Tierney, rallied well and cut the gap to two points before Castlerahan finished the job.
The sides were level early on after a free from Cian Mackey (the winners’ only score from a dead ball) and a 45 from Chris Conroy – whose ball-striking was exemplary again – but it was clear that the Ballyjaesmduff men were intent on driving forward at every oppoertunity and they were rewarded when Sean Brady’s perfectly-weighted pass released Oisin O’Connell, who blasted to the net.
Brady was pulling the strings at this stage and with David Wright playing his best game of the season, Castlerahan were full of confidence. O’Connell played Mackey in for their next point and then Brady set up Wright for his first to make it 1-3 to 0-1 on nine minutes.
Conroy stopped the rot with a sweetly-struck free but again, Brady was the provider for Castlerahan’s next as he laid on a pass for corner-back Stephen Cooney to fire over.
At the other end, Tierney kicked a trademark, quality point; Wright replied and then Tierney won the ball and transferred it to Paul Gilchreest, whose shot on goal was well saved by Jamie Leahy at the expense of a point.
That left it 1-5 to 0-4 with 16 minutes played; surely, it seemed, the high octane pace of the game would have to level off. It didn’t, though – and it was Castlerahan who found another gear.
Another point from the in-form Wright (whose fielding was a highlight too) was cancelled out by a Conroy free but after a slick counter-attack, Enda Flanagan pointed off the left, Cormac Daly added another and then Sean Brady thumped one in from a tight angle to put seven between the teams.
Castlerahan were moving really well by now, stringing together from beautiful passing moves, and from one such attack Brian Ennis gave a pass for Mackey to raise another white flag and then Shane McSweeney easily rounded a defender and added another to make it 1-11 to 0-5 on the half-hour mark.
On the stroke of half-time, Conroy pulled one back with a free which was the final kick of the half but when Enda Flanagan tapped over another point on the resumption, that seemed to be that.
Lavey, though, have shown their fighting spirit on countless occasions and they immediately got to work again. After Karl Duke was fouled, Conroy buried the resulting penalty in the bottom corner to give them hope.
That man David Wright drifted close to goal to pick off his fourth point but Lavey then enjoyed their best spell of the match, pinning Castlerahan back and kicking five points in succession, all of them of high quality.
A score from Duke was followed by a turnover which Tierney punished with a super point. A 50-metre free from Conroy made it a four-point game and better was to follow when the former Cavan player picked out Gerry Smith for the next and then, after a poor kick-out, Tierney sent over a magnificent point from a tight angle.
Suddenly, entering the final quarter, it was 1-13 to 1-11 and all the momentum was with the New Inns men and although Castlerahan stemmed the flow with a good point from McSweeney after a well-worked move, a sensational score from Tierney, under huge pressure, followed.
Castlerahan needed a response and they got it when Cooney strode forward for an inspirational score before sub Karl Cosgrove added one and Mackey did well to set Pauric Smith up to palm over for a point which really should have been a goal.
Castlerahan were humming again by now and O’Connell added a neat point to put five between them as they looked to ease home.
Duke and Enda Flanagan traded scores but Lavey were not done yet and Tierney blasted over his fifth and Dara Conaty kicked a big one, too, to keep their hopes alive.
In the dying seconds, though, Mackey beat a defender and clipped over and when he punched the air, it showed what this meant to Donal Keogan’s men.
Gerry Smith had the final say with a free but it was all over by then and Castlerahan march on.
Castlerahan: Jamie Leahy, Stephen Cooney (0-1), Fergal Reilly, Enda O’Connell, Paul Smith, Cormac Daly (0-1), Enda Flanagan (0-3), David Wright (0-4), Pauric Smith (0-1), Shane McSweeney (0-2), Brian Ennis, Cian Mackey (0-4, 1f), Oisin O’Connell (1-2), Ronan Flanagan, Sean Brady (0-1)
Subs: Karl Cosgrove (0-1) for Brady (44 mins), Shane O’Reilly for O O’Connell (59), Fergal Flanagan
Lavey: Conor Martin, David Conroy, Fergal Smith, Joey Jordan, Stephen Jordan, Chris Conroy (1-4, 3f, 45, 1-0 pen), Danny Cusack, Gerard Smith (0-2, 1f), Paul Gilchreest (0-1), Daire Tierney, Damien Smith, Darren Jordan, Shane Tierney (0-5), Karl Duke (0-2), Dara Conaty (0-1)
Subs: Darren Monahan for D Smith (29 mins), Oliver Smith for D Tierney (42),
Ref: Gerry Sheridan