Castletown Geoghegan 0-22 Clonkill 1-14
Alan Mangan knows a thing or two about winning and losing. In Westmeath, the man they call ‘Budda’ is a history-maker, part of the lauded 2004 vintage that delivered the county’s only Leinster title under Páidí Ó Sé during a riotous summer.
He’s also a decorated club hurler and footballer with Castletown Geoghegan and St Malachy’s. And away from the GAA he has been in an entirely different sphere and contested a General Election as a Labour candidate.
As a manager, too, he’s been through it. Twice he brought Tyrrellspass to a county football final. And twice they fell at the last hurdle.
So perhaps it was written in the stars for him to return to his old club and help them over the line.
Castletown were out to avoid the ignominy of becoming the first side in Westmeath history to lose four hurling finals on the spin. To pile on the misery, they had lost each of those three finals by a score. Two of them had been at the hands of Clonkill, one of them came after extra-time. Earlier in the campaign they had lost to Clonkill by 10 points.
If they carried baggage into this game they couldn’t have been blamed.
However, from the throw-in they set the tone and forced a free. As he would all day, Niall O’Brien punished. That got Castletown going and they scarcely looked back.
By half-time they led by 0-14 to 0-6. They were first to almost every ball and played like a side stung by too many bad nights after the big day.
Half-time offered Clonkill the chance to readjust. Niall Mitchell moved closer to goal, while they called on the veterans Brendan Murtagh and Paddy Dowdall, a holder of 15 county medals across hurling and football.
They improved and got within five on a few occasions but couldn’t get close enough to apply any real pressure. Clonkill missed three frees that should have had Castletown Geoghegan feeling their breath on their neck. Instead, they pinned their ears back and went for home.
Led by David O’Reilly, they held an eight-point cushion in injury-time. Murtagh’s rocket of a goal from a free was only window dressing. At last Castletown were champions.
“We asked these lads before the game to make sure we set the tone today from the start,” Mangan said.
“We didn’t do it in the semi-final but we did it today and I’m only after saying there that these boys have lost three finals in a row, the reason a lot of teams don’t lose four is because they don’t have the balls to come back and do it again. But our boys do, and they are great lads.”
In the build-up there had been no attempt to hide their poor recent record in finals. No attempt to pretend that they were playing to avoid an unwanted record.
“We did a lot of talking about it,” Mangan said. “These boys don’t deserve to lose four in a row – they probably should have won a few more of those games and they are a great bunch of lads.
“I played with most of them throughout my career but you never have to ring a lad to see will he come training or where was he. They train all the time and they deserve this.
“I played with maybe 10 of that team that started in a county final in 2013 and 2017 and I know them and they wouldn’t have let losing bother them at all.
“It is all about coming back to the well, these boys came back. They’ll go to the well every day for you.”
The post-match celebrations continued on the pitch for well over an hour after the final whistle. Castletown are champions at last. They move on to play the Kilkenny winners on November 12/13. For the moment, though, that can wait.
SCORERS – Castletown Geoghegan: N O’Brien 0-8 (5f); D O’Reilly 0-4; M Heeney 0-3; J Gallagher 0-2; P Clarke, A Clarke, M Gavigan, C Kane, C Murphy 0-1 each. Clonkill: A Price 0-7 (6f); L Loughlin 0-4; B Murtagh 1-0; M Glynn, A Shaw, N Mitchell 0-1 each.
Castletown – C Glennon; N McKenna, J Bermingham, A Glennon; C Kane, L Varley, D Lynch; P Maxwell, M Heeney; P Clarke, A Clarke, S Clavin; N O’Brien, D O’Reilly, J Gallagher. Subs: C Murphy for Clavin (37), B Carey for Gallagher (47), J Clarke for Maxwell (50), E Quinn for Glennon (53), M Gavigan for Clarke (55).
Clonkill – A Mitchell; C Nolan, M McGrath, A McGrath; J Murtagh, P Scally, D Egerton; L Loughlin, S Power; A Price, N Dowdall, A Loughlin Stones; J Smyth, N Mitchell, A Shaw. Subs: P Dowdall for McGrath (h-t), L Moran for Murtagh (44), B Murtagh for Loughlin Stones (45), M Glynn for Shaw (46), M Heffernan for N Dowdall (61).
Ref – C Flynn (St Brigid’s)