There were scenes of utter desolation in the Craigbane dressing room at O’Moore Park, Port Laoise minutes after the final whistle.
After having Brian Rainey red carded, then going four points up with a superb Lee Moore goal only to lose their scoring talisman, the Derry and Ulster champions flagged a little in the final quarter as the Kerry and Munster champions reeled them in and forged ahead to win by the minimum margin.
For a period of about ten minutes midway through the second half, it looked like it would be the Lily Whites’ day. However when a few debatable decisions went against the St. Joseph’s club and they had to work extra hard to defend with a man down, manager Kevin Moore admitted that it just wasn’t meant to be.
“It’s hard to comprehend some of the referee’s decisions out there today, but there’s not much we can do about it now. I thought a few things went against us and it ended up costing us in the end. I always say that these things have a way of evening themselves out over the season, some days things go for you and some days they don’t. Maybe today just wasn’t meant to be our day,” said Moore.
For long periods of the game on Sunday, the Derry side seemed to have to work harder to get themselves into scorable positions and they struggled to play with the same fluency that had got them to the position they were in. Credit must go to Castlemaine for their efforts but Moore also insisted his Ulster Champions were slow to start.
“We didn’t make life easy for ourselves sometimes and I suppose a lot of that is down to how well the Castlemaine lads played but I thought we were slow out of the blocks. Maybe a bit of nerves crept in as well because of the occasion. It seemed like an uphill battle and although we worked our socks off after going down to 14 men, we found it difficult to cope with them.”
Although the journey has finally ended for the north Derry club this year, Moore was quick to acknowledge the efforts of his club in a hugely successful season and predicts that it won’t be the last time they are competing on the biggest stage.
“Look, if you went into that changing room now you could hear a pin drop. The lads are devastated, just totally devastated. And it will take them a while to get over it but they have still got plenty to shout about. They have a county medal and an Ulster title under their belts and they can be very proud of that, as I am of them. I’ve no doubt some of these lads will be back here again in the future.”
Things could have been different for the Derry side though had certain decisions went in their favour during key parts of the game. Credit to Castlemaine though who played a very honest, hard hitting game of football and will be proud of their efforts as they now begin preparation for a day out in Croke Park.
The first score came from Castlemaine’s influential inside forward Ian Twiss who couldn’t have asked for a simpler opening chance from a 13m free kick in front of the posts. Craigbane responded a minute later through Aidy McLaughlin
Two minutes later Gavin Wrenn found himself in the referee’s notebook again after an earlier indiscretion, this time for scoring purposes after he split the posts well from distance on the right side of the goal
Another Twiss free extended the Kerry champion’s lead, a brilliant save from Craigbane ‘keeper Paul Sharkey denying a low, goal bound effort from Castlemaine’s Cathal Moriarty.
The Derry men responded when Aidy McLaughlin fed Cathal O’Kane to point well from close range but Castlemaine hit back with another Twiss free, his third point of the half, as the beginning of two minutes of additional time got under way. Castlemaine led by 0-04 to 0-02 at the break.
A rejuvenated Craigbane side started the second half brightest and after midfielder Bliain Gormley won the throw in, he launched a high ball into the forward line that was caught well by Aidy McLaughlin before he was fouled. Lee Moore converted the free from 30m to leave just one point between the teams again.
Minutes later and Craigbane’s hopes were dealt a hammer blow when attacking half back Brian Rainey saw a straight red card from referee Damian Brazil for allegedly striking out at his opponent off-the-ball.
The decision would turn out to be one of the turning points in the game as the Munster champions took full advantage of the extra man with constant waves of overlaps making it almost impossible for Craigbane to defend.
However, the ‘Lily Whites’ showed great character and determination in their defence and when the ball was worked forward Aidy McLaughlin made no mistake fielding a Gormley pass and jinking past his man to level the sides with a big score.
Minutes later Lee Moore put the Ulster Champions in front for the first time in the contest when he clipped over his second point of the day off the right boot from distance.
Goal For Goal
With the wind in their sails Craigbane’s momentum pushed them forward and a clever ball over the top released Moore again through on goal with the full forward emphatically burying the ball past the helpless Joe Daly in the Castlemaine goal to extend his side’s lead to four.
Castlemaine refused to go away though and almost instantly they replied with a goal of their own, a well worked passing move up the pitch falling nicely to substitute Derek Twiss who slotted the ball under the onrushing Sharkey into the corner of the net to bring the Kerry side right back into it.
Twiss wasn’t finished yet though and a minute later he had the sides level once again. Lee Moore had to come off injured for Craigbane with hamstring trouble and was replaced by Noel Reilly as the game moved into the final stages.
The Derry side continued to battle hard though and managed to work the ball up the field before Ryan Moore hit his first point off the day to leave just a kick between the sides. Craigbane’s last attack was controversially ended when the referee penalised Adrian Devine for throwing the ball instead of fisting it and with that the flame was finally extinguished as the whistle sounded for the final time around O’ Moore Park.
It was met with rapture in the stands from the travelling Kerry support and total devastation from the heartbroken Craigbane players and fans who came so close to a date with destiny.
Craigbane: Paul Sharkey, Damian McLaughlin, Fergal Crossan, Martin McGinty, Brian Rainey, Ruairí Gormley, Cathal McLaughlin, Bliain Gormley, Kieran McElhinney, Adrian Devine, Aidy McLaughlin (0-02), Cathal O’ Kane (0-01), Ryan Moore (0-01), Lee Moore (1-02), Gavin Conwell. (Subs) David Lowry for Kieran McElhinney; Noel Reilly for Lee Moore; Rory Moore for Cathal McLaughlin.
Castlemaine: Joe Daly, John Blenner-Hassett, Damien Murphy, Kevin McKenna, Paul Carroll, Marcus Mangan, Jono O’ Connor, Mike Burke, Donal Kelliher, Jerome Flynn, Shane Murphy, Gavin Wrenn (0-01), Cathal Moriarty, Colm Kearins, Ian Twiss (0-03). (Subs) Brendan Delaney for Donal Kelliher; Derek Twiss (1-2) for Colm Kearins; Kieran McKenna (0-01) for Cathal Moriarty.
Referee: Damian Brazil (Offaly)