Saturday 13th July 2019 will go down in the Shandonagh history books as the date of our first ever Westmeath Senior Football Championship game and what a game we were served up. A glorious evenings sunshine and firm footing provided ideal conditions for summer football in Cusack Park.
Castledaly started the better and this showed by them scoring the first 2 points. This was soon pulled back as Cormac Coyne hit the back of the Castledaly net with a great goal on the 4 minute mark. His brother Christy followed up with a point 3 minutes later. Castledaly were settling into the game better than Shandonagh and were rewarded with a goal themselves on the 10 minute mark. Despite their slow start you could feel the footballing potential of the Shandonagh team as they were like a stuck valve waiting to open.
Mickey Boyle got himself a point from play on the 11 minute mark and then in the 12th minute Kevin Boyle blasted the ball into the back of the Castledaly net again. Despite Castledaly playing more of the football up to this stage Shandonagh were ahead and not under pressure. Brian Kavanagh tacked on the next point which was then followed by a mighty strike out the field by Jeremiah Scully who put the ball between the uprights for a huge point. Kevin Boyle then chased down the Castledaly backs gaining possession with a great steal and duly slotted it over for a point. Next Mickey Boyle reacted quickest to a shot rebounding off the upright and put the ball between the posts.
Credit has to be given to the backs during all this as their defensive structure and positioning was nullifying any threat Castledaly attempted to impose. One defensive player who was very visible at this stage was Jenson Nagle who's running and fitness levels had us believing he may be part machine with him up and down the field and winning turnovers with his tackling.
Jeremiah Scully then added another point before Brian Kavanagh treated us to a great goal when he strolled through the Castledaly defence selling several dummies that had the Castledaly backs on the ground giving himself plenty of room to then place the ball neatly past the keeper. Mickey Boyle again worked hard to pressure the Castledaly defenders and won the ball back for Kevin Boyle to put over the bar for the last score of the first half.
Half time score
Castledaly were first first on the score sheet in the second half with a point. Cormac Coyne then did well to keep the ball from going out over the side line soloing in towards the goal with a hand pass to Brian Kavanagh who fisted it over the bar. Gareth Carr then won the ball in the air which eventually found Jeremiah Scully who slotted it over the bar. Gareth Carr did it again but this time pulled the ball out of the skies and passed it straight to Brian Kavanagh who stroked it over the bar. The Shandonagh midfield are playing very intelligently exemplified by Alan Hickey fisting the ball straight down to his team mates from a kick out.
Five minutes gone in the second half and Shandonagh are moving very well with most of the play in the Castledaly half of the field. Castledaly at this stage were attempting to run at the Shandonagh defence but do so at your peril as Damian Moran was on hand to dispossess the runner and change the direction of play in Shandonaghs favour. Damian Moran was again called on 2 minutes later doubling with Jenson Nagle to pressure and shepherd a Castledaly runner bearing down on the Shandonagh goals with the resultant shot rolling harmlessly wide. This tackling and teamwork is a joy to watch as it is very easy to inadvertently give away a free but the Shandonagh defenders gave a lesson in how to tackle and pressurise a runner.
Mickey Boyle was then fouled with the free being converted by Brian Kavanagh. The resultant Castledaly kick out was fisted down by Alan Hickey to Kevin Boyle and when it came to Gareth Carr his long hard kick nearly confused the keeper and was just about kept out of the Castledaly goal. Shandonaghs 4th goal came after Brian Kavanagh ran the ball in towards goal and the offload was an easy palm into the net for Cormac Coyne. Jenson Nagle was again relentlessly covering ground up and down the field and even a heavy shoulder only paused him for a brief second. Jensons quick ball up the field which found Jeremiah Scully resulted in a beautiful point by Jeremiah straight between the posts halfway out to the sideline on the 45.
Ten minutes gone in the second half and the evening sun is making kick outs from the west end of Cusack Park hard to judge for both sets of midfielders. Nevertheless the Shandonagh structure is holding well with players covering back at all costs and Castledaly not breaking through as they would wish to.
Conor McCrossan then went on one of his driving runs down the middle, was fouled on the 45 and Brian Kavanagh slotted over the resultant free. McCrossan did it again a minute later with another run offloading to Mickey Boyle who kicked it between the posts.
In the 18th minute of the second half Castledaly were awarded a penalty with Conor Craig going the correct direction but the kick is low and hard to the bottom corner and just slips by the Shandonagh keeper. In the resultant kick out a voice roared for it that could probably be heard back at the Shandonagh clubhouse and David Duffy smartly palmed it down to his teams mates: this was a call to wake up and push on as Shandonagh needed to impose themselves on this game and show their championship intent.
Many instances of smart play were on display at this stage as Ciaran Shanley who had come on for Alan Hickey shepherded his man out away from the centre and the Castledaly kick went wide. David Duffy was again on hand to flick the ball down to his team mates from the Shandonagh kick out.
23 minutes gone of the second half and Shandonagh are holding possession very well in the middle looking for the free inside man but Castledaly are crowding their back space. David Duffy kicks a fine pass into Jeremiah Scully whose kick goes just left of the upright.
Philip Smith who had come on for Christy Coyne then nearly rattled the roof of the net with a great run up the right of the middle and letting fly but the kick hits the black spot on the cross bar and comes back out towards the corner. Alan Hughes was then introduced for Conor McCrossan on the 25 minute mark and his first contribution was a super well measured point straight between the posts just left of the middle out on the 45 meter line.
The excitement had gone out of the game at this stage with the end result being inevitable. Brian Kavangh slotted another free with 31 minutes gone on the clock. Shandonaghs last goal was a great team goal with a series of one-twos between the forwards cutting through the Castledaly defense and Kevin Boyle finishing the move off by hammering the ball into the right hand corner of the net with his left boot.
The Shandonagh team can mix it scoring in close or out far as opportunities arise. Their willingness to work for each other, maintain composure and defensive structure is very evident. If the team continue to play with their top 3 inches and to their strengths who knows for 2019.
Full time score
Conor Craig, Cathal Craig, Gareth Carr, Jenson Nagle, Ben Treanor, Alan Hickey, Christy Coyne, David Duffy, Jeremiah Scully, Conor McCrossan, Kevin Boyle, Damien Moran, Brian Kavanagh, Cormac Coyne, Mickey Boyle
Ciaran Shanley for Alan Hickey, Philip Smith for Christy Coyne, Aaron Flanagan for Mickey Boyle, Alan Hughes for Conor McCrossan, David Scahill for Jeremiah Scully, Ryan Norris for Cormac Coyne