Laois Shopping Centre Senior Hurling Championship Group B Rd 1
Castletown Gaels 1-18
By Pat Delaney
FOR the first time since the introduction of the present system Camross were beaten in the opening round. On Friday evening, facing their neighbours for the first time in 11 years, they were well beaten and full credit to the Gaels, they were the superior team on the evening.
Camross were forced to line out minus several first choice players but they will be first to admit that was not all the reason they find themselves propping up their championship group.
Twelve months ago teenager Mark Dowling signed off on a dream championship year by scoring the winning goal in the county final and when he opened this year’s campaign with a point after 35 seconds he must have thought it could only get better. But by half time it was obvious the last club to retain the title were determined to make sure their record would be preserved.
Camross then hit two bad wides and Tadgh Doran was forced into an early save from Ben Conroy.
The Gaels opened their account with a Dylan Conroy point from a free and Martin Phelan edged them in front a minute later, but they squandered a few opportunities before Ben and Dylan Conroy posted white flags.
Zane Keenan pulled one back for Camross in the 11th minute. Martin Phelan added his second a minute later but Zane Keenan kept the champions in touch.
Ben Reddin then got on the score sheet and, when the Conroys posted another brace, the challengers were growing in confidence.
Twenty minutes in Zane Keenan pointed from a place ball but Ben Conroy hit another and both sides were guilty of more missed opportunities before Zane Keenan narrowed the gap with five minutes of the half remaining.
A minute later the Camross defence were caught out when Ben Conroy made space for himself and sent a powerful shot to the roof of Tadgh Doran’s net.
Ryan Mullaney then delivered a long range free that went between the posts but the champions responded in the closing minutes of the half.
Zane Keenan sent a line ball between the uprights and on the call of half time the same player converted a free from near the side line leaving the challengers leading 1-10 to 0-7.
The Gaels would have been happy with their opening 30 minutes but the champions must have been concerned. Could they change matters with a slight breeze in their favour defending the Town goal?
Within a minute of the restart Dean Delaney posted a point but two minutes later careless defending allowed Dylan Conroy restore a six point advantage.
After both hit wides Dylan Conroy extended his side’s advantage from another placed ball.
Camross then enjoyed a brief spell of supremacy. First Zane Keenan arrowed a line ball between the uprights while Joe Phelan delivered a long distance point to reduce the margin to five after 38 minutes.
Castletown responded with further points from Dylan Conroy while James Hooban rolled back the years with a long range effort from play. Dylan Conroy increased the Gaels advantage as both defences were playing well.
Zane Keenan reduced the margin but after sustained pressure Camross hit three bad wides in succession. When Keenan struck from play the margin was five but again Dylan Conroy would add two more, as did substitute Aaron Gaughan and Shane Phelan.
A minute from time Camross were awarded a close in free which Zane Keenan drove all the way to the net but it only helped to make the scoreboard look better from the champion’s perspective.
The Gaels have struggled in the opening round in recent years but now they have put the pressure on the champions who face must win games in their next outings.
CASTLETOWN GAELS: Pat Mullaney; Martin Reddin, Eoin Peters, John Gaughan; Shane Phelan, Ryan Mullaney (0-1f), Evan Cuddy; Conor Phelan (0-1), Shane Cuddy; Dylan Conroy (0-8, 0-5f, 0-1 ‘65), Martin Phelan (0-2), James Hooban (0-1); Joe Phelan, Ben Conroy (1-3), Brendan Reddin (0-1).
Subs: Oisin Bennett for Gilmartin (37m), Michael Phelan for Moloney (47m), Odhran Phelan for C Collier (54m)
CAMROSS: Tadgh Doran; Andrew Mortimer, Martin Burke, Joe Phelan (0-1); Lorcan Burke, Andrew Collier, Malvin Moloney; Zane Keenan (1-9, 1-6f, 0-2 sl), Matthew Collier; Ciaran Collier, Niall Holmes, Eoin Gaughan; Mark Dowling, Darren Gilmartin, Dean Delaney (0-1).
Subs: Michael Phelan for Moloney (47m), Oisin Bennett for Gilmartin, Odhran Phelan for C Collier (54m)
Referee: John Lalor (Shanahoe)