Monday 18 December 2017

Nolan answers call of destiny for 'Haven

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

GLORY belongs to local legend and history books when it comes to club football, and glory only comes with winning.

How you get there doesn't matter so much, and it's just as well they don't give out marks for style and flair because there wasn't much of it on view at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

Castlehaven, beaten finalists last year, and their opponents, drawn from clubs in the Duhallow division, played a tactical, torrid, and low-scoring final, albeit one with a grim fascination for the few neutrals in the crowd of 6,170.

This was Gaelic football 21st-century style. Tactical formations, screen defences, lots of handpassing in safe areas and essentially waiting for the other side to make a mistake.


It was a game of high-stakes chess, and though it lit up in the last 20 minutes to an extent, the match as a spectacle can safely be consigned to the realms of the forgettable -- unless you are a Castlehaven player, mentor or supporter.

The men and women of the west Cork GAA stronghold remember only too well the bitter disappointment of the 2011 final when 'Haven were pre-match favourites and lost out to UCC.

All that counted at the end of the 2012 decider was that Castlehaven ended up on the right side of the scoreline and team captain Sean Cahalane lifted the Andy Scannell Cup aloft to thunderous cheers.

Castlehaven will be proud that they triumphed despite being reduced to 14 men when Chris Hayes was sent off for a careless trip on Duhallow's Padraig O'Leary that earned him a second yellow card and his marching orders.

But how much they owed to Lady Luck, who smiled on them when it counted. Team boss James McCarthy was desperately looking for a game-changer and he sent on sub Shane Nolan for Stephen Hurley in the 45th minute.

At that time the teams were level on 0-6 each, after grinding their way to an interval sharing of the spoils at 0-5 to 0-5. Cork star Donncha O'Connor had nicked Duhallow's sixth point just three minutes after half-time, but 'Haven's Mark Collins brought them back level again in the 35th minute.

So here we were. Neither team had scored for 10 minutes, and Shane Nolan came on. He got busy but without any great effect until -- hello! -- fate tapped Shane on the shoulder and said, "it's hero time for you son," in the 58th minute.

Right man, right place, right time, for the game was slipping into the grasp of Duhallow. With three minutes left, Matthew Dilworth and Duhallow sub Jack Cott had edged the divisional side into a two-point lead at 0-8 to 0-6.

And then? Bang! Goal! Out of nothing. Collins, the man of the match, struck a hard and accurate ball into the heart of the Duhallow goal area.

The ball fizzed in just above head height and fell perfectly for Nolan to flick it into the net past despairing Duhallow goalkeeper Kevin Murphy.

Despite a huge effort by Duhallow, Castlehaven's heroes, with Damien Cahalane, Mark Collins, David Limrick, Liam Collins, Tomas O'Leary and Mark Cahalane all to the fore, then restricted their opponents to just a single point by Donncha O'Connor, despite four minutes of injury time being played.

For Duhallow's Aidan Walsh it was a bittersweet weekend. Named as an All Star during the week for his exploits with Cork, Walsh did all he could but couldn't cap it off with a senior club championship winner's medal.

Castlehaven manager James McCarthy summed it up, saying: "It was a tough game, a close game, a tactical game. We went a man down, but we came again and again. After the two years we've put in, we're delighted.

"I said to the boys at half-time, 'if someone gets a goal they're going to win it'. When we were two points down we were still in the game, and we're saying all year, when the ball goes in, go in after it, and Shane got a fist to it."

Ned English, the Duhallow manager, could only shake his head at how close they came. "The goal was cruel. We were dominating possession against the wind, and then the goal came out of nothing. The lads gave their all but we ran out of time in the end."

Scorers -- Castlehaven: S Nolan 1-0, M Collins 0-3, B Hurley 0-2, S Cahalane and D Cahalane 0-1 each. Duhallow: D O'Connor 0-4 (2f), A Walsh, P O'Leary, N Fleming, M Dilworth, J Cott 0-1 each.

Castlehaven -- P Hurley; D Limrick, L Collins, T O'Leary; D Burns, D Cahalane, C Hayes; S Dineen, D Hurley; R Whelton, M Collins, A Cahalane; S Cahalane, B Hurley, Stephen Hurley. Subs: M Cahalane for D Burns (39); Shane Hurley for A Cahalane (44); S Nolan for Stephen Hurley (45).

Duhallow -- K Murphy; J McLaughlin, P Gayer, AJ O'Connor; P O'Leary, J Healy, S Murphy; A Walsh, B O'Callaghan; D O'Connor, D Gayer, L McLaughlin; K Holland, N Fleming, M Dilworth. Subs: J Cott for K Holland (46), N O'Sullivan for N Fleming (59), K Buckley for S Murphy (61).

Ref -- P O'Leary (Kilmurry)

Irish Independent

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