STRONG favourites Cullen were pushed to the pin of their collar on overcoming Castlemagner in the opening round to the Castlecor Potatoes Duhallow Junior A Football Championship at Dromtarriffe.
Despite playing better football during the second half, an understrength Cullen were forced to withstand a spirited Castlemagner effort.
Indeed the losers offered a clear indicator of their desire and asked plenty of questions concerning Cullen’s capabilities in a competitive contest.
Cullen enjoyed a decent start from early points by Conor Kearns and Alan Regan though Castlemagner got to grips with the task through the efforts of Donal Gayer, Cillian O’Sullivan, Danny Linehan and Jack Cott. Points to Linehan and Eoin Magner nudged Castlemagner ahead only for Tomás O’Keeffe to gain parity.
Still Castlemagner’s game carried a threat, highlighted on good work by O’Sullivan and Conor Massey set up Magner to slot home the game’s only goal. Though feeling the heat, Cullen answered with a pair of points to Regan to trim the arrears 1-7 to 0-8 at half time.
On the restart, Castlemagner might well have added a second goal, Jack Cott forced a terrific save by Cullen custodian Fachtna O’Connor with Magner converting the resultant ’45.
However Cullen proceeded to gain on the ascendency with Aaron Nolan and substitute James O’Sullivan gained a dominance in the centre, well supported by Paul Fleming, Francis Cronin and Kearns. Going forward, Cullen served notice of their intentions with six consecutive points from O’Keeffe, Nolan and Regan swayed matters in favour of Cullen.
Still, a black card to centre back Dermot Hickey stalled Cullen’s momentum as Castlemagner made inroads from points by Aaron O’Keeffe and Linehan. Again Cullen regrouped with points to Regan and Kearns to restore a four point grip.
Castlemagner never relinquished hope and remained in contention, halving the deficit thanks to the accuracy of Linehan and Cott. Hard though as Castlemagner attempted to save the day, Cullen comfortably defended their lead during the latter stages.
Scorers for Cullen: A Regan 0-7(3f), A Nolan 0-3, T O’Keeffe 0-2, C Kearns 0-2, B O’Connell, F Cronin 0-1 each.
Castlemagner: E Magner 1-3 (0-1’45, 0-2f), D Linehan 0-5 (0-4f), C Massey, J Cott, T Murphy, A O’Keeffe 0-1 each.
CULLEN: F O’Connor; S Fleming, M O’Riordan, D Murphy; P Fleming, D Hickey, F Cronin; A Nolan, D Twomey; C Kearns, B O’Connell, W O’Keeffe; M Twomey, A Regan, T O’Keeffe.
Subs. P Murphy for W O’Keeffe (inj), D O’Riordan for M Twomey; C O’Connor for B O’Connell.
CASTLEMAGNER: D O’Callaghan; A Morrissey, D Vaughan, D Lucey; A O’Keeffe, D Gayer, T O’Riordan; C O’Sullivan, D Linehan, S Falvey, D Murphy, C Massey; J Cott, E Magner, T Murphy.
Subs. L O’Riordan for T O’Riordan, N Breen for C O’Sullivan, B Healy for D Lucey.
Referee: W King (Kilbrin).