Castlegregory 1-14 Kiltimagh 0-15 (AET)
On Valentine's Day 2010, Castlegregory GAA entered the Croke Park history book in winning the All-Ireland Club Junior championship Football title at Croke Park. Previous victories over Mountcollins and Longwood in the latter stages of the All-Ireland Junior Champsionship put this victorious team into the final against the Mayo side - Kiltimagh.
Castlegregory endured a huge battle before in extra time, they finally escaped with the title to give the club its biggest win in the club’s history.
That was largely due to the opponents they collided with as Kiltimagh providing the most searching test that Castlegregory had faced in their entire campaign.
The Mayo outfit was a serious team with the benefit of recent experience in the intermediate grade, and their resolute defence and strong midfield pairing prevented Castlegregory from creating the space and racking up the high scores that had been a hallmark of their campaign to date. But Castlegregory became worthy champions, primarily due to their ability to adapt to a different type of game and an unstinting refusal to bow to defeat in a hard-fought encounter. Late in the first half, Alan Lynch and Noel Lydon traded points, sending Kiltimagh in at the break with a 0-06 to 0-04 advantage
The match may not have ran the way they would have liked or envisaged, with nerves of playing on the big stage an understandable factor as well, but the Castlegregory team dug in to stay in contention. On several occasions during normal time, Kiltimagh looked set to speed away to victory but Castlegregory displayed tremendous spirit to hang in there. Yet for all their resilience the game looked over for Castlegregory entering the final moments of normal time.
Pointed frees by Brian Gallagher and Ciarán Charlton sent the Mayo team into an 0-11 to 0-9 lead by the 58th minute.
Considering the trends of the game, it looked curtains for Castlegregory but the West Kerry men were not prepared to let their epic journey come to an end in disappointing fashion.
They attacked downfield where wing-forward Shane Hennessy, the man deservedly bestowed with the man-of-the match award afterwards, sized up a free on the right wing.
Hennessy’s kick floated towards a crowded goalmouth where corner-forward Colm O’Mahony rose to flick the ball on and it somehow scrambled into the far corner of the net.
Suddenly, Castlegregory were on the cusp of a dramatic success but the joyous celebrations in their camp were cut short soon after.
Kiltimagh looked to have missed their chance of levelling when substitute Michéal Schlingermann’s attempt to point a free tailed off wide, but disaster struck from the resultant kick-out for Castlegregory in the 63rd minute.
Goalkeeper Shane Kenny’s decision to take a short kick out in the direction of JB Spillane backfired as Kiltimagh’s Sean Malee intercepted. And when he was fouled, Ciarán Charlton showed a glacial nerve to steer the ball between the posts and the match towards extra-time. The dramatic chain of events could have affected Castlegregory’s mentality as they were left with mixed emotions entering extra-time. On the one hand, they had been pegged back late on with victory imminent but on the other hand before O’Mahony’s goal they seemed to be starting defeat in the face.
Whatever was said before they emerged for extra-time worked the oracle, as despite Kiltimagh’s continued resistance, Castlegregory illustrated in extra-time why they merited the title of champions.
In defence, full back Joe Scully came storming into the game, making some key interceptions and rampaging forward in possession.
Outside him, Stephen Browne was magnificent throughout, commanding his position during times when Kiltimagh had Castlegregory on the rack and also stealing forward to impact in front of goal.
It was Browne who landed Castlegregory’s first point of the game in the third minute and he added to that score with an outstanding shot from distance in the 72nd minute of the game. Wing-back Sean O’Mahony also had a crucial role to play as he shared in an All-Ireland triumph, 16 years after experiencing glory with the Kerry minor footballers in Croke Park.
O’Mahony’s experience and calm were key in settling Castlegregory, particularly during the nervous phases in normal time. Kiltimagh had some fine attacking talents with wingforward Ciarán Charlton deadly accurate from frees, Seán Malee capable of impacting and inside attackers Ronan Malee and Brian Gallagher threatening at various stages. But Castlegregory weathered the Kiltimagh storm and were glad to only trail 0-6 to 0-4 at the interval of normal time.
Twice Kiltimagh had come close to goaling in the firsthalf but Noel Lydon and Gallagher blazed shots over the bar. If the ball had went past Shane Kenny at that point, it would have been a significant blow. Although Kiltimagh added a quick point after the restart courtesy of their impressive midfielder Tomás Morley to lead 0-7 to 0-4, Castlegregory’s response was brilliant and decisive. It was at this period of the game where Shane Hennessy came into his own.
Blessed with a tremendous left foot, Hennessy rifled the ball between the posts in the 37th, 45th and 46th minutes. Neither score was easy to convert but his angles of running caused all sorts of problems for the Kiltimagh backline and he reignited Castlegregory’s challenge.
Along with an excellent point by Colm O’Mahony in the 40th minute, Hennessy’s salvo saw Castlegregory in the ascendancy at 0-8 to 0-7 with 14 minutes remaining. Kiltimagh retrieved the situation from there to make their prospects look good in normal time, but Castlegregory fought back and in extra-time they had the players to clinch victory. The use of their bench was especially vital as the presence of fresh legs told after an energysapping encounter.
The likes of Hennessy and Colm O’Mahony, who once again showed his great attacking play with a 1-3 haul, kicked important scores and Alan McNamara got in on the act as well with a beautiful point.
Still, Kiltimagh were sticky opponents who refused to die and as they trailed 1-13 to 0-15, Charlton had a glorious chance in the 78th minute to level the game. But his effort dropped short and Castlegregory swept upfield where Alan Fitzgerald was the hero as he kicked classy score that sealed Kerry’s second successive All-Ireland junior club football title.
Team Manager Ger O'Callaghan commented after winning that from being involved with most of the players all the way up along at underage level that he had lived a dream in guiding this team all the way to an All-Ireland title in Croke Park.
"You always knew that there were serious footballers inside that dressing room that could go and achieve what we did here today. It was really a question of gelling them all together and thankfully we got a shot at it. I know myself and Colm (Geaney) are going to get the credit for this but I must mention Tom Hogan and John Joe O'Connor for putting in huge work," he said of his fellow management team.
Castlegregory: Shane Kenny, Gavin O'Connor, Joe Scully, Joe O'Connor, Sean O'Mahony, Stephen Browne (0-02), Adrian Finn, Micheal O'Shea, Ryan Kelliher, Shane Hennessy (0-05, 1f), Alan Fitzgerald, JB Spillane, Colm O'Mahony (1-03), Alan Lynch (0-02), Alan McNamara (0-02).
Subs: David Heasman for Alan Fitzgerald, Brendan Lynch for Micheal O'Shea, Colm O'Connor for Ryan Kelliher, Colm Sills for Adrian Finn, Alan Fitzgerald for Alan Lynch, Ryan Kelliher for Alan McNamara
Manager: Ger O'Callaghan
Trainers/Selectors: Colm Geaney, John Joe O'Connor, Tom Hogan
Kiltimagh: P Burke, J Mulhern, J Murtagh, P Larkin, D Gallagher, C Heneghan, A Lydon, T Morley (0-01), P Regan (0-01), C Charlton (0-07, 7f), S Malee, L Lydon, B Gallagher (0-02, 1f), N Lydon (0-01), R Malee (0-02). Subs: P Lydon for A Lydon, M Schlingermann (0-01) for D Gallagher, A Forkan for N Lydon, B McCarthy for Heneghan, A Carrell for S Malee, K Lydon for L Lydon
Referee: S Carroll (Westmeath)