All-Ireland Club (JHC) Quarter-Final
Castleblaney (Monaghan): 2-11
John Mitchel’s (Warwickshire): 1-10
Larry Cooney at Pairc na hEireann
John Mitchel’s hopes of reaching the All-Ireland Club (JHC) final next Spring are in ruins following an inexplicable late collapse against Castleblaney at Pairc na hEireann last Sunday afternoon.
All appeared to be going according to plan when they led by five points midway through the second half before disaster struck against the very spirited Farneymen who outscored them by 2-5 to two late Domhnall Nugent pointed frees to run out deserving four-point winners.
The result means that Castleblaney are now through to the All-Ireland Club (JHC) semi-final against Carrick-on-Shannon after a thrilling encounter in Birmingham instead of the Warwickshire champions who were considered serious contenders to reach the Croke Park decider next February.
Two second-half goals from Castleblaney centre back and team captain Paddy Finnegan and top scorer Fergal Rafter tipped the balance in favour of the visitors who only managed just two pointed frees from Fergal Rafter in the opening half at the end of which the winners trailed by 1-4 to 0-2.
But after a storming second-half display in the closing quarter, the Ulster champions can now enjoy their Christmas while John Mitchel’s will be left to ponder on what might have been.
Although John Mitchel’s had the benefit of the wind in the opening half as they defended the pavilion end scores were scarce in the opening quarter on a dry but cold day.
In fact, it was the visitors who opened the scoring in the third minute through top scorer Fergal Rafter’s first of his seven successful placed balls. But a neat finish from Gary Lennon had the scores tied almost immediately from the puck-out.
A foul on Niall Kennedy then presented Niall McKenna with his first opportunity to open the scoring and put the hosts into the lead for the first time.
But poor shooting from the Exiles resulting in six first-half wides eventually proved costly and although Castleblaney were equally guilty of poor shooting they were still the happier of the two teams after eighteen minutes when another Fergal Rafter free tied the scores at 0-2 each.
However, John Mitchel’s finished the half on top after the burly Domhnall Nugent put them ahead with a point from a Peadar Scally assist with three minutes of the half remaining. And it got better for the Exiles a minute later when Niall Kennedy rounded his marker to set up Emmett Mc-Cabe for a goal.
From the puck-out, a foul on Niall McKenna presented the midfielder with another scoring opportunity and he made no mistake to leave the half-time score: John Mitchel’s 1-4 Castleblaney 0-2.
The visitors needed a good third quarter if they hoped to get back in contention and Fergal Rafter provided the perfect start with an early pointed free. But that score was soon cancelled out by a fine Niall Kennedy finish.
Allen set up Mark Treanor for a point a minute later Fergal Rafter looked set to score Casteblaney’s first goal until goalkeeper Philip Crean denied him with a full-length save to concede a ’65 which Hugh Byrne converted in the thirty-sixth minute.
But Mitchel’s continued to battle bravely and were level through a Domhnall Nugent free before another Rafter free put them back into the lead and as the Exiles chased the game they were left badly exposed at the back with two minutes of normal time remaining.
A through ball from Mark Treanor found Fergal one-on-one with a Mitchel’s defender and he made no mistake for a clinching second goal and surely a match-winning four-point lead.
Although Nugent and Rafter traded late pointed frees the final say in a memorable victory for Castleblaney went to their inspirational captain Paddy Finnegan who hit a long-range point to leave the final score: Castleblaney 2-11 John Mitchel’s 1-10.
SCORERS — Castleblaney: Fergal Rafter 1-8(0-7)f, Paddy Finnegan 1-1, Mark Treanor and Hugh Byrne (0-1)65 0-1 each. John Mitchel’s: Domhnall Nugent 0-4(0-2)f, Niall McKenna 0-3(0-3)f, Emmett McCabe 1-0, Niall Kennedy 0-2 and Gary Lennon 0-1.
CASTLEBLAYNEY — Paddy Collins, Colin Merrick, Jim McHugh, Eoin Leonard; Bernard Connor, Paddy Finnegan (capt.), Cormac McNally: Brian Flanagan, Mark Treanor; Hugh Byrne, Aaron Kenny, Fintan Finnegan; Fergal Rafter, Brian McGuigan, Craig Callan. Subs: Nathan O’Dare for Fintan Finnegan 47, Jack Deasy for Eoin Leonard 53.
JOHN MITCHEL’S — Philip Crean; Robbie Curley, Dean Bruen (capt.), Micheal O’Regan; Peadar Scally, Willie Allen, Dessie Kelly; Garry Lennon, Niall McKenna; Ian Dwyer, Domhnall Nugent, Breen Fallon; Emmet McCabe, Niall Kennedy, Kelvin Magee. Subs: Kieran Courtney for Ian Dwyer 45, Ogie Long for Breen Fallon 45, Ian Dwyer for Kelvin Magee 61.
REFEREE: Rory McGann (Clare)