Charlestown U16’s welcomed a much fancied Knockmore outfit to Fr. O’Hara Park last evening. The conditions were dull, which was in stark contrast to the pulsating hour of football that was served up by both sides.
Fresh from a tenacious battle away to Belmullet in Rd 1 of the championship which resulted in an agonising defeat by the bare minimum, Charlestown knew a win was imperative to keep hopes of making the semi-final alive. This was clear to see as the home side dominated the opening exchanges and were unfortunate to find themselves only in control by the slenderest of margins after the first quarter, 0:03 – 0:02 after squandering a number of good attacking opportunities. During this time the midfield partnership of Ben Conway and Jack Mahon dominated proceedings and provided a platform for the likes of Ciaran Honeyman, Ruairi Cullen and Eoin Goldrick to attack. Cullen drew a good save from the Knockmore keeper while Martin McCormack also rattled the crossbar. Time would tell whether the Sarsfields would regret not taking these chances.
Knockmore, who are one of the favourites for the County “A” Championship; kicked into gear in the second quarter and began to create their own chances. Good defending by Darragh Casey, Luke O’Donohue and Sean Dunleavy in the full back line who were terrific throughout, ensured that scores were kept to a minimum for the visitors during this period, while at the other end; clever play from Cullen saw the ball recycled out to Ben Crean who kicked a tidy score with five minutes of the first half remaining. Then the men in green and white got the shot in the arm they needed as Honeyman buried a goal brilliantly after some good link that started with Jack Brennan and David Doherty in the half back line. This left Charlestown leading at half-time, 1:04 – 0:06 and in truth did not reflect Charlestown’s dominance in the opening half as many attacks faltered in the final third with some poor execution and dogged defending from our opponents.
Charlestown started the second half as we did the first, in the ascendancy and kicked the first score within the opening minute of the resumption. The half back line were attacking at every opportunity during this stage which was typified by Niall Drudy who drove forward from his centre back berth, kicking two fine scores throughout the game. Marty Beirne was also a menace at the back, contesting every ball that came into his vicinity. As the clocked ticked into the last 10 minutes, Charlestown still led 1:07 – 0:09 in a game that was ebbing and flowing with the ball flying from end to end.
Unfortunately for our lads, their failure to convert chances when in the ascendency did come back to bite. What looked like a promising Sarsfields attack broke down on the opponents ’45 and the ball found its way up the pitch to a Knockmore forward who made no mistake in smashing past Niall Fleming who had mad a magnificent save minutes earlier. Just like in the league final win, Fleming was confidence personified as he turned in another cool and collected performance with his kickouts a particular highlight.
As the game neared injury time, Charlestown found themselves in arrears, amazingly for the first time in the match. Drudy and Mahon had slight goal chances that just blazed over the bar to leave the game 1:10 – 1:09 in favour of the North Mayo side. Chances to attack presented themselves to the green and white over the last few minutes but it was not to be as some sloppy play resulted in the ball being turned over on a couple of occasions. Knockmore then kicked a fantastic free with what proved to be the last kick of the game with the final scoreline 1:11 – 1:09 in a game where the home side will be scratching their heads how they lost.
Nevertheless, this has been a fantastic year so far with our lads having captured the County Division 2 League title at the end of May and competing manfully against two of the favourites for the County Championship, reflected in defeats by one and two points respectively. The year is far from over either as we play Claremorris away in Rd. 3 of the group stages next Monday evening @ 7pm before attention turns to the East Mayo “A” Championship in August, a title we are defending from U14 level two years ago. The lads deserve fantastic credit for the way they have acquitted themselves all year and here’s hoping it will continue over the coming months and into the future.
Niall Fleming; Sean Dunleavy, Darragh Casey, Luke O’Donohue; David Doherty, Niall Drudy, Marty Beirne; Ben Conway, Jack Mahon; Ben Crean, Ciaran Honeyman, Jack Brennan; Ruairi Cullen, Martin McCormack, Eoin Goldrick; Brendan McCormack, Cahir Vesey, Micheal Durcan, Dillon Curry, Tomas Goldrick, Jack Corley.