Cork GAA in review: A year to remember for Castlemartyr hurlers

Two county hurling titles claimed in just over three months for the thriving East Cork side
Cork GAA in review: A year to remember for Castlemartyr hurlers

Castlemartyr players celebrate after defeating Sarsfields in the Co-op SuperStores Cork IAHC final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in November. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WHILE Castlemartyr were a force in East Cork hurling in the 1950s and 1960s, there was a 45-year wait for the Jamesy Kelleher Cup after the 1964 win.

However, that 2009 divisional title was followed by three more in 2010, 2013 and 2014, going all the way to county glory after that latter win. However, when the Cork championships were restructured at the end of 2019, they were placed in the fifth tier, the lower intermediate.

In the delayed 2020 championship, they qualified for the county final against fellow Imokilly side Russell Rovers. That game was delayed until August 21, 2021 but when it was played, they picked up where they left off, winning by 1-20 to 0-11 in Páirc Uí Rinn.

It meant they would face into the intermediate A grade three weeks later, with Blackrock, Douglas and Mayfield for company. Douglas were first up in Castlelyons on September 12 and they showed no signs of trouble in making the step up with a 3-29 to 1-20 win.

It set them up nicely ahead of the second game three weeks later, against Blackrock in Cobh, and once again they came out on top. Eoghan Martin fired in a goal for Castlemartyr in the opening minute and Niall Madden also raised a green flag in the first half, with the half-time score 2-13 to 1-5 in their favour. They were 2-22 to 2-15 in front by the end.

With Mayfield – who had already beaten Blackrock – beating Douglas in the second round, it confirmed that they and Castlemartyr had secured qualification for the knockout stages and the game between those two teams would determine top spot.

Caherlag was the venue on October 9 and Castlemartyr continued their rich vein of form as they won by 0-24 to 2-17. Shane Kelly’s goal helped Mayfield to a half-time lead of 1-12 to 0-12, but Castlemartyr responded strongly in the second half thanks to the point-scoring of Mike Kelly, Brian and Barry Lawton and Andrew Kelly to edge in front. While Adam Lawlor netted to put Mayfield back into the lead at 2-17 to 0-22, Kelly and Brian Lawton had late points.

With a scoring difference of 23 points, Castlemartyr took the top seed and they progressed to the semi-finals, with Sarsfields also advancing to the last four.

The first semi-final took place on Friday, November 5 with Sarsfields beating Mayfield by 1-15 to 0-15. The following night, Castlemartyr were pitted against Cloughduv at the Boreenmanna Road venue.

While they led by 0-6 to 0-1 early on and Michael Kelly set up his brother Andrew for a goal to ensure they led by 1-10 to 0-8 at half-time, they did need a good Daire Coughlan save from Cloughduv’s Aidan Murphy in injury time.

Early in the second half, Brian Verling did find the net for Cloughduv and the sides were level by the 44th minute. If Castlemartyr were wavering, they didn’t show it as Ciarán Joyce landed a good point and they pushed on Joe Stack scored a superb goal. While Mark Verling converted a penalty to give Cloughduv some hope, Jack McGann eased any Castlemartyr concerns to secure a final spot a fortnight later.

The teams had played in the 2009 East Cork final and Castlemartyr had four survivors – Brian and Barry Lawton, Barra Ó Tuama and Adrian Bowens – while Sars could still call upon Garry Gray and Cormac Duggan.

Sars threatened goals early on, with Eoin O’Sullivan setting up James O’Leary in the second minute and O’Leary laying on an opportunity for Cormac Duggan on 12. Then on 18, O’Leary was again provider, this time for Ben Graham, who got a shot in after being forced wide by Martin. Unfortunately for Sars, all three efforts were repelled by Daire Coughlan in the Castlemartyr goal and they retired at the water break with a 0-6 to 0-4 advantage.

Two from O’Sullivan did help Sars to level, but a Kelly free and points from Niall Madden and Barry Lawton – both set up by Brian Lawton – helped Castlemartyr to lead by 0-9 to 0-7 at half-time. That lead became three when Joyce landed a booming effort from distance. Then, when Kelly had the opportunity of a straightforward point on 35, he instead opted to go for the jugular with a pass to Stack, who fired home.

Though O’Sullivan replied with his fifth and Sars’ eighth point, Kelly (two) and Barry Lawton put Castlemartyr 1-13 to 0-8 in front by the 40th minute. While Sars sub Paul Leopold had helped to curb the influence of Brian Lawton somewhat, the scores continued to flow. It finished 1-19 to 0-12 as Castlemartyr will look forward to premier intermediate hurling in 2022.

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