JHC Semi Final Castleknock v Trinity Gaels

JHC Semi Final Castleknock v Trinity Gaels
Parnell Park,

Castleknock 2-19 v Trinity Gaels 2-14 (A.E.T.)

After a somewhat facile win against Cuala in the quarter-final of the Junior hurling championship the preceeding Sunday, Castleknock arrived at Parnell Park on Wednesday night expecting a full-blooded challenge from the men of Trinity Gaels. They weren’t disappointed.

These two team had met in the group stages with the Somerton men recording a four point victory but that would count for nothing over the next hour and a half as a titanic battle ensued. There wasn’t a breath of wind and the sun had disappeared by the time the ball was thrown in and conditions were ideal. Referee Damien Burnett got proceedings underway at 6.45 and there was hardly time to draw breath until the final whistle of extra time. Castleknock drew first blood with a point and nosed a further two points ahead before the Gaels troubled the scorekeeper but the two teams were neck and neck then until the last few minutes of the game. Ian Cleary rampaged forward from left wing-back to knife through the defence and despatch the ball the ball to the net. He’s a player who has rediscovered his form in a big way and is an absolute delight to watch in full flight. Castleknock’s short puckout strategy was also paying dividends and things were looking good for the Castleknock men.

The Gaels were not to be discouraged however and fought back with a really disciplined and determined display. They were rewarded with some scorable frees and kept in touch with some well-worked scores from play also. The Somerton outfit had what looked like genuine calls for a penalty denied and the battle rumbled on. Castleknock were finding it hard to keep track of the intelligent running of the Gaels’ middle diamond and didn’t help their own cause with some wasteful shooting. Credit must go to the Donaghmeade defence for some of theses misses as every shot was under intense pressure. The Gaels gave themselves a tonic when they capitalised on some indecision in the Castleknock defence to register their own major just before half-time.

On the resumption, the pattern of the first half was repeated, tit-for-tat, with derring –do and unfailing commitment the order of the day. The Gaels slipped into a one point lead only for Castleknock to answer with a dropsmacked goal. The Blue and Gold mid-field had begun to dominate and the Gaels were now the ones feeling the pressure as the tackling and chasing became relentless. The men from West Dublin looked to be out the gap but Trinity Gaels, as was expected, had other ideas and were awarded a free on the stroke of full-time to send the game into extra-time. Castleknock had emptied their bench at this stage and each new addition had brought fresh legs, fresh impetus and top-class hurling to the fray.

If the veracity of the statement regarding the importance of a squad is ever questioned, one need look no further than Wednesday night. All 8 substitutions (5 in normal time, 3 in extra-time) made an impact and ably replaced the men who had given their all beforehand. At half-time in extra time, the sides were still neck-and-neck but then Niall O’Callaghan put daylight between them with

two sublime frees, from either side of the field. The Gaels’ men were possibly tiring at this stage but their commitment waned not an iota and they always looked dangerous from midfield up. O’Callaghan capped a fine performance with one more peach from the stand side. This was a fine game of hurling by two courageous teams and despite the intensity of the play, it’s difficult to recall anything even close to a dirty stroke. Trinity Gaels must be commended for their contribution and can rightly feel proud of a very sporting, dogged performance.

Lucan now await in the final, to be played in O’Toole Park on Sunday 27th at 2.30pm. Last year’s Junior B champions defeated an accomplished Kilmacud Crokes’ outfit in the other semi-final and will have their eyes set firmly on the prize. It’s set to be a cracker.