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Captain Bob sets great example in stirring Cloughbawn burst


CAPTAIN BOB Whitty starred in a remarkable second-half Cloughbawn recovery after Geraldine O’Hanrahans gave them the Halloween fright of their lives in Friday’s floodlit Joyces Expert Intermediate ‘A’ football championship quarter-final in St. Patrick’s Park.

While the Geraldines, seeking to reach successive semi-finals, led by just 0-9 to 0-3 at the interval, their play was of such a superior standard that pre-match expectations of a Cloughbawn victory were under serious revision.

But Cloughbawn returned with renewed vigour as Bob Whitty kicked 2-7 without reply, including the equalising goal after 36 minutes (1-6 to 0-9), before advancing them clear by 2-10 to 0-9 as the 2018 runners-up completely turned the game on its head.

Harry Kehoe put in a typically honest shift, but his involvement in next weekend’s semi-final is in some doubt as he has the important matter of marrying Kiltealy woman Aisling Byrne this Friday.

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In addition, Cloughbawn will also be sweating over the availability of key centre-back Gavin Murphy after he was forced off with a hamstring injury. Amid a brief burst of rain at the start, Cloughbawn threatened to charge clear, only to sprinkle four wides around points from Colm Kehoe and Whitty (free) inside eight minutes.

Geraldine O’Hanrahans began with Robbie Vallejo at midfield instead of his customary full-forward berth, while Seán ‘Eggy’ Culleton made his first start of the campaign up front after three telling impacts from the bench.

And with defender Pádraig Bailey curbing his attacking instincts to keep Bob Whitty under wraps, the Geraldines began to crank up the gears to have Cloughbawn at sixes and sevens. Dylan Egan produced a neat dummy to score before Vallejo popped over an eleventh-minute equaliser (0-2 apiece).

The Geraldines’ stock soared as Egan set up Culleton for the lead score, while joint captain Matt Crowdle pointed two on the trot, before Vallejo’s long delivery to the left corner saw Egan screw over from an angle for a 0-6 to 0-2 lead at the hydration break on 16 minutes.

The leaders posted a couple of wides before Enda Kelly enhanced their position from a free forced by Diarmuid Kehoe. And after a rare Cloughbawn advance had ended with the ball dropping into the ‘keeper’s grasp, the Geraldines countered for Culleton to make it 0-8 to 0-2 after 27 minutes.

They had a massive let-off though when Cloughbawn midfielder Eanna Doyle’s immaculate delivery found Connal Flood latching onto the ball in acres of unmarked turf, only to crash the gilt-edged goaling chance off the butt of a post.

The younger of the Whittys, Paddy, was involved along with Harry Kehoe as Bob ended Cloughbawn’s 23-minute scoring drought a minute into added-time, but Vallejo responded from a free to have Geraldine O’Hanrahans in fine fettle at the break (0-9 to 0-3).

Páidí Cullen took over in the Cloughbawn defence from full-back Colin Doyle, with James Dempsey dropping to the edge of the square as Cullen came in at wing-back to very good effect.

With fireworks crackling in the neighbourhood, the Enniscorthy District men were sparkling as Bob Whitty scored from a mark 24 seconds after the restart before adding from play and a free.

He pounced with the equalising goal after Gavin Murphy got a fist to a Geraldines’ kick-out for Ryan Murphy and Colm Kehoe to combine before Whitty fired low to the town-end net after 36 minutes (1-6 to 0-9). The Geraldines were now operating in the margins of the game, and Whitty (play and free) reclaimed the initiative by 1-8 to 0-9 midway through the half amid heavy rain.

Wing-back Shane Kehoe, a goal-scorer in the previous round, dashed through to force Geraldines’ ‘keeper David Caulfield into a smart save before Caulfield was beaten again on 53 minutes when Páidí Cullen fed Whitty to blast open a 2-8 to 0-9 lead.

Two more frees from Whitty preceded Dylan Egan and substitute Daithí Merrigan salvaging consolation points for the subdued Geraldines, before Connal Flood’s insurance point completed this stunning transformation.

Cloughbawn: Paul Foley; Ryan Murphy, Colin Doyle, David Doyle-Murphy; Shane Kehoe, Gavin Murphy, James Dempsey; Colm Kehoe (0-1), Eanna Doyle; Harry Kehoe, Bob Whitty (capt., 2-9, 0-5 frees, 0-1 mark), Connal Flood (0-1); Kyle Murphy, Paddy Whitty, Garrett Murphy. Subs. – Páidí Cullen for C. Doyle (30+2), Thomas Foley for Garrett Murphy (48), Aaron Byrne for R. Murphy (52), Johnny Cullen for Gavin Murphy, inj. (57).

Geraldine O’Hanrahans: David Caulfield; Michael Cleere, Conor Cleere (joint capt.), David Purcell; Eoin Kelly, Garry Hill, Pádraig Bailey; Robbie Vallejo (0-2 frees), Barry Roche; Diarmuid Kehoe, Matt Crowdle (0-2), Jack Foran; Seán Culleton (0-2), Dylan Egan (0-3), Enda Kelly (0-1 free). Subs. – Daithí Merrigan (0-1) for Purcell (48), Michael Cullen for M. Cleere (54).

Referee: Derek Murphy (St. Martin’s).