Castleknock take Plunkett’s in Extra-time

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Castleknock 2-18 – 2-15 St Oliver Plunkett’s/ER

Plunkett’s have fallen to Castleknock for the second year in a row, confirming Knock’s position as undoubtedly one of the top three sides in Dublin.

After an epic battle, as good as you’re ever likely to see, which went the distance, all the way to extra time, Castleknock eventually got over the line.

Plunketts’ forwards initially looked too hot to handle, with Alan Brogan and Gareth Smyth up top, reeling off a number of slick points between them, with too many Castleknock eyes on Bernard Brogan.

They would lead by seven points to four at half time, but the writing was on the wall before then, as Knock had manoeuvred three of their points and two goal attempts which hit the under side of the bar, off the back of quick kick-outs.

When Plunkett’s intercepted a short kick out and Niall Walsh netted earlyish in the second half you could have been forgiven for thinking that it would go away from them, six down.

Credit Morven Connolly in the Castleknock goal, who didn’t waver from the game plan as he continued to hit a number more short kicks with zero room for error.

By my estimate, between eighty and ninety percent of Knock’s scores came directly off their own kick-out, breaking forward quickly, maybe 60-70 percent from short ones. Had Connolly’s nerve not held, they’d have been doomed.

Plunkett’s knew it as they tried but generally failed to prevent them.

Knock hit back immediately from Walsh’s goal with two goals in a short space of time which brought them back to parity. Ciarán Kilkenny scored the first and was fouled for the penalty for the second. Both had again had come from attacking quickly from their own kick-out, one long and one short.

With Paul Curran springing three sets of fresh and super fit legs himself in the last quarter (Paul Brogan, Conor Walsh and James O’Donoghue) to avoid an otherwise inevitable onslaught from the super-fit Knock, it looked like Plunkett’s had done enough, taking  a two point lead into the latter stages.

Alas, Knock simply didn’t lie down and two late frees from Séaumus O’Carroll, the second of which was moved up from 38 to 24 metres on account of dissent, saw them take it to extra-time at 2-11 apiece.

With extra time looming, you had to fancy the fitter Knock, but with Curran reeling off fresh, young legs, some who might not normally see championship football, it didn’t transpire.

In fact, it was Plunkett’s who had a one point lead during the second period of extra time, with Conor Gurn off the bench, in particular, looking like a veteran game controller. They began to try to play keep ball to control their lead. One interception, however, and Castleknock never looked back.

Eoin O’Brien capped a star performance which saw him mostly tie up Bernard Brogan from the point at which he came on in the first half, to come from deep and score an inspirational 45 yard point.

This was followed by what had become an all too common pattern of Ciaran Kilkenny being left one-on-one up front, after retiring from midfield duty, whereby he forced a 45 yard free which O’Carroll once again dispatched.

With the strength in depth which saw one of last year’s finalists Peter Sherry come on late in normal time, and two more, Kevin Kindlon and Dessie Carlos, come on at half time in extra time, they just had too much.

Plunkett’s couldn’t stem the tide as Knock put up two more to run out 2-18 to 2-15 winners.

Perhaps now, bizarrely by my take, 3/1 underdogs coming into the game,  they’ll finally get the respect they deserve.

*Full analysis to follow in the coming days

By Stephen O’Meara