Niall O’Brien (Castletown Geoghegan) and Robbie Greville (Raharney). PHOTO: JOHN MCCAULEY

Early Clarke goal propels Castletown to SHC decider

Slevin’s Coaches Senior Hurling ‘A’ Championship semi-final: Castletown Geoghegan 1-19, Raharney 0-15

Gerry Buckley reports

Raharney were dethroned as Westmeath Examiner Cup champions by a very focused Castletown Geoghegan outfit last Sunday afternoon in ideal conditions for hurling at TEG Cusack Park, the black and amber-clad side now deservedly through to a showdown against Clonkill next month.

Castletown Geoghegan have been the ‘bridesmaids’ of Lake County hurling in recent years, losing the last three county finals, and they will be determined to put this statistic right when they face their arch-rivals from Loughegar in the decider.

On last Sunday’s evidence, they will take a bit of beating, with their strong all-round squad containing a number of very experienced players and some extremely promising newcomers.

For their part, Raharney’s ‘curse’ in never retaining the blue riband trophy in the small ball game in Westmeath continues, and their over-reliance on All Star nominee Killian Doyle was very evident last Sunday, albeit the absence of his inter-county colleague, the injured Eoin Keyes, was a huge blow to their chances of retaining their crown in what has been a turbulent year for them.

Castletown Geoghegan got off to a great start when Peter Clarke rounded off a flowing move with a very well-taken goal in the second minute. However, the Deelsiders were on level terms by the sixth minute courtesy of a brace of long-range frees from the aforementioned Doyle (the second from all of 80 metres) and a delightful point from Brian McHugh.

Alan Mangan’s charges then pounced for four unanswered points, courtesy of Plunkett Maxwell, Niall O’Brien (two – an opportunist score and a tricky free), and David O’Reilly (who went on to have a fine game).

Three points from the Doyle twins – Killian (two – an amazing effort from play and another huge free) and Ciaran (one – a clever lift-and-strike) left the men in blue just a point in arrears after 22 minutes.

The exchanges had by now become progressively more hard-hitting. However, Alfie Devine had a fine game in charge of the whistle and he refereed very sensibly throughout.

Killian Doyle and O’Brien traded points from frees before a point each from the Doyle brothers – Killian’s was a sensational score from looked like an impossible angle – edged the champions ahead for the first time (0-9 to 1-5).

Peter Clarke pointed neatly for the challengers, but two Killian Doyle frees (routine by his standards) left Raharney ahead by 0-11 to 1-6 at the interval.

Points from O’Brien and corner back Aaron Glennon had Castletown-Geoghegan on level terms by the third minute of the second moiety. Killian Doyle (a ‘65’) and Aonghus Clarke exchanged point, but the winners went into a lead they never really looked like relinquishing in the 35th minute via Peter Clarke. O’Brien quickly added a brace to his tally – a classy score from play and a free.

Killian Doyle and O’Reilly (after a great interception on the hard-working Robbie Greville) soon exchanged points. A great free from O’Brien preceded the red-carding of David Hickey after the referee consulted his linesman with Naoise McKenna on the ground nearby.

With an extra player in their ranks, Castletown-Geoghegan were rampant and three points ensued from the sticks of O’Brien (a wonderful score) and two superb efforts from lively sub Conor Murphy.

Ciaran Doyle was unable to find the net with a goal seemingly at his mercy in the 56th minute, and this effectively spelt the end of the road for Bernard Crowley’s troops.

A neat point from sub Devin Hill and a long-range free from Eamonn Cunneen – who may well have been attempting to merely lob the ball goalward – reduced the gap to five points.

But Castletown-Geoghegan confirmed their undoubted superiority on the day with points in injury-time from their two marquee players in recent years, O’Brien (a free) and Aonghus Clarke (a great score from play).

A late Raharney attempt to manufacture a face-saving goal was thwarted and it is Castletown-Geoghegan who deservedly march on to the final.

Man of the match: David O’Reilly (Castletown-Geoghegan). The youngster from Rosemount came of age last Sunday, especially when moved to midfield where he was hugely influential in his side’s dominant performance in the second half.

Scorers – Castletown-Geoghegan: N O’Brien 0-9 (7f), P Clarke 1-2, D O’Reilly, A Clarke and C Murphy 0-2 each, A Glennon and P Maxwell 0-1 each. Raharney: K Doyle 0-10 (6f, 1 ‘65’), C Doyle 0-2, E Cunneen (f), B McHugh and D Hill 0-1 each.

Castletown-Geoghegan: Kieran Glennon; Naoise McKenna, Johnny Bermingham, Aaron Glennon; Conor Kane, Liam Varley, David Lynch; Plunkett Maxwell, Mick Heeney; Peter Clarke, Aonghus Clarke, Shane Clavin; Niall O’Brien, David O’Reilly, Jack Gallagher. Subs used: Conor Murphy for P Clarke (41), Morgan Gavigan for Gallagher (49), Joe Clarke for Heeney (49), Eoin Quinn for Maxwell (49), Brandon Carey for McKenna (59).

Raharney: Aaron McHugh; Sean Quinn, Mark Glennon, Jamie Mulkearns; David Hickey, Robbie Greville, Gary Greville; Killian Doyle, Eamonn Cunneen; Rory Keyes, Cormac Boyle, Brian McHugh; Eoghan Ahearn, Joey Boyle, Ciaran Doyle. Subs used: Conor McKeogh for Glennon (40), Devin Hill for Ahearn (48), Pierse Weir Norris for Keyes (inj., 60 + 5).

Ref: Alfie Devine (Castlepollard).