Players shake hands at the end of today's game but there was some tension also between players at the final whistle.

Meath champions stay on course for provincial glory

After their stroll over Laragh in the quarter-final of the Leinster Club JFC Castletown had to graft hard to defeat Carlow side Clonmore in the last four at Netwatch Cullen Park today.

This was a rigorous, demanding, tight, uncompromising game that was only secured in the closing stages. The kind of game to sharpen up any team.

The Meath champions could never relax even when they went three ahead in the closing stages - they were always vulnerable to a late goal.

Sure enough, in the final seconds, Clonmore won a free about 30 metres out. Sure enough they lobbed the ball into the Castletown goalmouth that was as crowded as a turkey market in the run up to Christmas.

They didn't get the goal they needed to save themselves. Instead Castletown cleared the danger and the game was safe. They were through to a Leinster final where they face St Abban's, Adamstown.

They just about deserved to win too. Aidan Young's side were the more composed, more inventive and enterprising side particularly in the second-half. They were the more disciplined also with Clonmore finishing the game with 13 men after they had two sent off in the closing minutes, just when they needed to be at full strength. James Whelan and Shane McGrath walked for needless fouls.

This game will surely be huge benefit to Castletown because Aidan Young's had to search deep into their locker to find the winning formula. They made many unforced errors, suffered from turnovers, gave the ball away, coughed up frees but they still won - and that will help them in terms of confidence and learning from their errors as they prepare for a Leinster final.

They played some excellent football at times as well, stitching a series of passing movements together over the hour that pulled Clonmore this way and that. It all helped to create space for their own personnel to exploit.

The Meath champions led 0-5 to 0-4 at the break, the scoreline not really highlighting the fact that they had more of the possession but Clonmore were doughty, resilient opponents who couldn't be shaken off easily.

Rian McConnell was Casteltown's topscorer with three points over the hour, two from play, and that fact alone indicated how the midfielder had a huge influence on this game. He also processed a huge amount of ball and showed an exemplary vision in the way he sprayed passes around, invariably finding colleagues better placed than he was.

Declan Cribben was very prominent in the opening half and he ended up with two points as did Kevin Ross, although he had a relatively quiet outing with both his scores derived from frees. The hard-working Killian Smyth and Darren Finney also lofted over scores.

Clonmore's main score-getter was Shane McGrath with five points, three frees and his loss to a red was huge for them. The fact also that only three of their number got on the scoresheets hints at their limitations upfront and Castletown's defensive robustness, especially in the second-half.

Adam Matthews, Shane Hoey, Darren Finney, Damien Ginnitty and Cribbin had fine outings for the winners.

The nearest either side came to a goal was after 20 minutes. Castletown put a wonderful move together that finished with Seamus Doherty passing to Finney who blasted the ball against a post.

The missed opportunity didn't prove costly in the end for Castletown who deservedly marched to a victory that will have done them a great deal of good on a number of fronts.


Castletown - Rian McConnell 0-3 one free; Declan Cribbin 0-2; Kevin Ross 0-2 frees; Damien Ginnity 0-1; Killian Smyth 0-1; Darren Finney 0-1.

Clonmore - Shane McGrath 0-5 two frees; Con Murphy 0-1 45; Tom Pollard 0-1.


Castletown - Jonathan Ginnitty; Noel Smyth, Evan Hoey, Adam Matthews; Killian Price, Shane Hoey, Eoin Reid; Rian McConnell, Killian Smyth; Darren Finney, Gerard Farrelly, Damien Ginnitty; Seamus Doherty, Kevin Ross, Declan Cribbin. Subs - Killian Markey for D Ginnity 53 mins, Roberty Hoey for Farrelly 60m,Mark Kelly for Cribbin 62m, Cormac Farrelly for Matthews 63m.

Clonmore - Colm McGrath; James Whelan, Anthony Kealy McDonald, Paddy Gahan; Shane Murphy, Matt Cullen, Billy Lawlor; Enda McGrath, Luke Connolly; Bob Bulmer, Shane McGrath, Tom Pollard; Edin Connolly, Con Murphy, Jake Hickey. Subs - David Mulvany for Kealy McDonald 26 mins, Dylan Doyle for Hickey 44m, Rory Maguire for Connolly 52m, Anthony Byrne for Bulmer 58m.

Referee - Keith O'Brien (Westmeath).