Castlehaven made to do it 'the hard way' against Cratloe

It was another less-than-open affair at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Castlehaven made to do it 'the hard way' against Cratloe

BLUE SINDAY: Sean Collins of Cratloe is tackled by Rory Maguire of Castlehaven at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture:  Tom Beary/Sportsfile

Castlehaven 1-12 Cratloe 0-11 (AET) 

Castlehaven’s 1-16 to 2-11 Cork semi-final win over the Barrs seems like another lifetime ago now. Their 1-16 to 1-14 group-deciding win over Clonakilty has become such an outlier over the past two months that we’re not sure it ever even happened.

Both games - if you can try and picture it - were open. Both games were absent of heavy traffic and mind-numbing congestion. Both games offered space for forwards to breathe. And to express themselves.

Both games have become the exception rather than the rule. That applies to football’s ongoing ill-health and Castlehaven’s ongoing journey. Their journey of late hasn’t been at all scenic. Or very much enjoyable.

Following on from a drudge of a defence-dominated Cork decider, the Haven were made to endure more of the same on their first Sunday outing in Munster.

With creators and finishers of the calibre of the Hurley brothers and Jack Cahalane, and runners of such high-quality ilk as the elder Cahalane brothers, Rory Maguire, and Mark Collins, teams are reluctant to step out and engage in a game of football with the Haven. They prefer instead to withdraw and choke up the main arteries to goal.

Castlehaven’s four points from 14 first half kicks - a desperate 28% conversion rate - meant Cratloe were never forced to emerge from their defensive bunker and chase proceedings in an untidy and unstructured fashion.

In that sense, the Haven were as much to blame as the Clare champions for serving up a suffocating Munster quarter-final that provided eight first-half scores and no score at all between the 41st and 58th minute.

The opening period was a near perfect replica of the forgetful Haven-Nemo Cork final. Even the 0-4 apiece interval scoreline was identical.

There was no risk. No menace. It was beyond meandrous and beyond mundane.

Everyone defended in numbers, everyone stuck to their watch-post as if their lives depended on it, and everyone then crept forward when the turnover arrived. Rinse and repeat. It made for one long half hour of inaction.

The inaction continued all the way to the 58th minute. There, Brian Hurley mercifully ended a 17-minute barren spell with a thumping effort from 45 metres out.

He had kicked a similarly important score from a similar distance at much the same time against Nemo Rangers. Here, though, the Haven were unable to power on.

Corner-back David Collins levelled for Cratloe two minutes into injury-time. It was their first score in 21 minutes. It was the first of three scores in a minute and a half of frantic, end-to-end injury-time fare.

Mark Collins, less than 45 seconds later, had the Haven back in front. Again, they were unable to hold on or hold out. Another Cratloe defender, Enda Boyce, landed a mesmeric kick from out the field to force extra-time.

After almost 20 minutes of rudderless second-half nothingness, the finish and finishing were top-drawer. Extreme caution was shunted off centre stage. In its stead came fearless approach work and fearless shooting.

It was as if both sides were content to sleepwalk for the first hour and then consume a gallon of coffee that fueled a manic, almost schizophrenic four-minute injury-time outburst.

Normal and slow order was restored in extra-time. A seven-minute scoreless spell. What broke it was the game-deciding score.

Substitute Robbie Minihane drifted off his man and inside the cover. Picking him out was the excellent Jack Cahalane. The sole green flag sent the West Cork crew 1-9 to 0-9 clear. It was the first time more than a point had separated them.

Cathal McInerney frees either side of the quick turnaround cut the deficit to the minimum. Cratloe, however, were unable to tie up matters for a 10th time.

A Brian Hurley pair, bringing his tally to 0-7, and a Jamie O’Driscoll fisted effort left the winners with four to spare at the end of 90 minutes.

After a whole lot of unnecessary drama, Castlehaven eventually got there. Their journey will next bring them to Waterford and a semi-final against Rathgormack.

“We done it the hard way but I thought we showed great spirit,” said Castlehaven manager James McCarthy.

One of these days, they’d love to be able to show off a bit more of their wares.

Scorers for Castlehaven: B Hurley (0-7, 0-3 frees); R Minihane (1-0); J Cahalane (0-2); M Collins, R Maguire, J O’Driscoll (0-1 each).

Scorers for Cratloe: C McInerney (0-4, 0-4 frees); C O’Hanlon (0-1 mark), E Boyce (0-2 each); D Collins, D Ryan, C Ryan (0-1 each).

Castlehaven: Darragh Cahalane; J O’Regan, R Walsh, T O’Mahony; Damien Cahalane, M Collins, R Maguire; C Cahalane, C Maguire; J O’Neill, B Hurley, A Whelton; S Browne, M Hurley, J Cahalane.

Subs: C O’Driscoll for Browne (42); R Minihane for Whelton (45); C O’Sullivan for O’Neill (47); J O’Driscoll for O’Regan (57); J O’Regan for J O’Driscoll (60); J O’Driscoll for C Maguire (79); M Maguire for B Hurley, D Whelton for O’Mahony (both 80).

Cratloe: P Chaplin; L Markham, K Harnett, D Collins; E Boyce, M Brennan, R McNamara; D Ryan, C Ryan; S Neville, S Collins, C O’Hanlon; R Considine, C McInerney, P Collins.

Subs: J McInerney for Considine, O Murphy for McNamara (both 52); T Rooney for O’Hanlon (55); C O’Hanlon for P Collins (76).

Referee: J Hayes (Limerick).

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