Harnan's Skryne battlers dig deep to deny Castletown
Leinster Club SFC quarer-final
LIAM Harnan has a 'que sera sera' attitude to Wednesday night's Meath County Board meeting, which will decide whether he has a role as a selector in the next Royal County management structure, but he wasn't in a 'whatever will be, will be' mood at half-time in Pairc Tailteann, Navan, yesterday.
Former All-Ireland winner Harnan had seen his Skryne side play second fiddle to a lively and passionate Castletown side for most of that first half, and he wasn't at all relaxed about it.
The Wexford champions had come to Navan as underdogs, but the gallant men in maroon belied that status as they tore into Skryne from the start.
Only that hard-headed traditional brand of Meath stubbornness enabled the home side to recover from the shock of an early pasting in most areas of the field for the first 20 minutes, but Harnan's men dug deep.
They clawed their way to a half-time lead of 0-7 to 0-6 and found the scores when they needed them late in the second half to clinch the win.
"Hats off to Castletown. They were fabulous. They hunted in packs and chased down everything and attacked well," Harnan said. "They really asked questions of us and we came up with most of the answers. At half-time we knew we had to match that intensity and hunger and I think we did that for most of the second half."
Castletown's manager Tim Walsh could certainly be proud of his team's display, despite them coming up just short of victory.
"In the end, experience won out. We gave everything, but experience and the extra match they had against Rathnew probably gave them the edge they needed in the heat of battle," said Walsh.
Even in the warm-up the Castletown lads looked sharp and hungry, and when referee Pat Fox blew his whistle to start the match, that impression was confirmed.
Speedy centre-forward James Holmes won a '45' after two minutes, which big Anthony Masterson knocked over the bar for the first score of the game.
Skryne were looking to ex-Meath star Trevor Giles and the height and strength offered by Paddy O'Rourke and Ian Davis for leverage against the confident visitors, but for much of the first quarter, they saw precious little of the ball.
Points by James Holmes, Conor Carty (free), and Jody O'Shaughnessy added to Masterson's early score and brought Castletown a 0-4 to 0-1 lead by the 10th minute. Skryne had to wait until then before getting on the scoreboard thanks to an Ian Davis point. Davis added another from a free after 13 minutes, but another Carty free on 18 minutes restored Castletown's three-point lead. And then Skryne began to remorselessly grind their way back into contention.
A run of three points in as many minutes by Davis (free), Kevin Mulvaney and Mark Battersby brought Skryne level seven minutes from the interval.
Battersby and Dave McGoldrick raised the Skryne tally at half-time to seven points, while a fine score by Masterson kept Castletown just a point adrift.
Harnan's men spent the second half grafting as if their lives depended on it, and that's what it took to see off Castletown.
Over 32 minutes of play elapsed in that half, and Skryne tacked on only five points to the Wexford team's four. Every ball was fiercely contested, and attack followed counter-attack by both sides.
The teams were level four times in the second half, the last occasion at 0-10 each with four minutes left. Ultimately, Castletown were caught out pushing too many men forward, and in the last two minutes Davis scored two points, which took his team through to the semi-final against Rhode of Offaly.
Scorers -- Skryne: I Davis 0-5 (0-2f), K Mulvaney 0-3, P O'Rourke (0-1 '45'), M Battersby, D McGoldrick, B Byrne 0-1 each. Castletown: A Masterson 0-4 (0-1 '45'), C Carty (0-2f), J O'Shaughnessy 0-2 each, J Holmes, J Foley 0-1 each.
Skryne -- F O'Rourke; A Curry, D Beaton, M Jordan; J Looby, C Lenehan, J Hegarty; A Tuite, D McGoldrick; P O'Rourke, T Giles, I Davis; K Mulvaney, B Byrne, M Battersby. Subs: B Davis for B Byrne (45), J Quinn for J Hegarty (56), V O'Reilly for J Looby (56), P Fox for M Battersby (56).
Castletown -- R Farrell; R Kinsella, N Morris, C Carty; C Molloy, C Morris, D Gardiner; T Sheehy, J Foley; G Sunderland, J Holmes, J O'Shaughnessy; J Lannigan, A Masterson, B Halpin. Subs: E Condren for J Lannigan (44), A Merrigan for D Gardiner (56, K Morris for J Holmes (60).
Ref -- P Fox (Westmeath).