CASTLETOWN 0-14 CRAOBH CHIARÁIN 1-9 Shane Scanlon DUBLIN hurling still waits on its big breakthrough, Castletown wait on another Leinster SHC club duel with Birr.
That was the post-mortem from yesterday's entertaining quarter-final in Portlaoise where Dublin champs Craobh Chiaráin came agonisingly close to upsetting their Laois counterparts after a dogged encounter laced with drama and controversy.
With a bit more composure in front of goal and a kinder bounce from Lady Luck, Craobh could have taken the spoils, but in the end Castletown's experience and all-round craft proved decisive.
Playing with the breeze, Castletown began in impressive fashion. Inside five minutes, the Laois title-holders had established a three-point lead and the signs began to look ominous for the visitors who were forced to withdraw injured pair Kevin O'Donoghue and Seamie Keeley from their starting line-up.
There was little between the sides for most of the first half, but Paul Cuddy's ability to convert long range points ensured the home side maintained the initiative and led by 0-8 to 0-5 at the interval.
Spearheaded by the industry of John O'Sullivan at midfield, Castletown started the second half as they had the first, and increased their lead to five points within three minutes of the re-start.
But a minute later, the men from the Capital were thrown a lifeline when Castletown 'keeper John Lyons failed to deal with a crossfield delivery from McDonnell and Alan McCrabbe bundled the sliotar over the goal-line from close range.
Sensing the danger, Richie Power's charges hit back with two points in quick succession before a major moment of controversy arrived in the 43rd minute.
Castletown sub Barry McKelvey fired goalwards from 20 yards and the sliotar appeared to whizz high and about three feet wide. Incredibly, to the disbelief of Craobh goalie Ger Ryan, the umpire raised the white flag and referee Dickie Murphy confirmed the score which handed the hosts a crucial five-point advantage.
Afterwards, Castletown boss Power sportingly admitted that he felt the ball had gone wide but Craobh manager Mick McGuckian refused to blame the incident on their defeat. "We still had enough chances to win the game after that but we just didn't take them and you can't afford to do that at this level," he lamented.
It was hard to argue with McGuckian's appraisal. His side dominated possession in the final quarter and had Castletown on the back foot for most of it. Admittedly, the Dublin forwards were up against a tireless Castletown half-back line, but that still doesn't excuse a succession of bad wides (seven in the second half, and 11 in total).
SCORERS - Castletown: P Phelan 0-5 (1f); Paul Cuddy 0-3 (1 '65, 2fs); Pauric Cuddy, J Hooban, D Cuddy, F O'Sullivan, J O'Sullivan, B McKelvey 0-1 each. Craobh Chiarain: C Ring 0-6 (3fs); A McCrabbe 1-0; S Mulhall 0-2; D Kirwan 0-1.
CASTLETOWN - J Lyons; M Phelan, R Delaney, T Phelan; J Palmer, Paul Cuddy, D Keenan; B Ferns, J O'Sullivan; Pauric Cuddy, D Cuddy, F O'Sullivan; J Hooban, P Phelan, JR Kingston. Subs: B McKelvey for Kingston (41), S Lyons for F O'Sullivan (47), T Dooley for Ferns (54).
CRAOBH CHIARAIN - G Ryan; M Keeley, F Kelly, D Shanley; K Elliott, D Wyse, Derek O'Reilly; S McDonnell, J McGuirk; A Breathnach, C Ring, S Mulhall; G Ennis, D Kirwan, A McCrabbe. Subs: G Duggan for Breathnach (42) Damien O'Reilly for Shanley (46), K O'Donoghue for McCrabbe (59).
REF - D Murphy (Wexford).