Connolly stars as Castlegar overcome Clarinbridge test

Clarinbridge goalkeeper Rian Flanagan comes udner pressure from Castlegar's Darren Costello and James Smith in Pearse Stadium on Saturday. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Clarinbridge goalkeeper Rian Flanagan comes udner pressure from Castlegar's Darren Costello and James Smith in Pearse Stadium on Saturday. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Castlegar 2-13

Clarinbridge 2-10

A storming third quarter, in which Castlegar outscored Clarinbridge 1-4 to a point, was crucial to the city side securing victory in a county minor ‘A’ championship semi-final that, from a neutral’s perspective, never really hit any great heights at Pearse Stadium on Saturday.

The lack of entertainment value and, indeed, the overall quality in the standard of hurling will not worry the Cashel faithful this week however, as they deservedly marched into a county decider against Athenry in the coming weeks.

The key period for the victors was the third quarter. Despite Mark Kennedy – by and far Clarinbridge’s best player – hitting the opening score to put his side a goal to the good, Castlegar subsequently struck for an unanswered 1-4 thereafter.

Incredibly, all of that tally came from one player, Oisin Connolly, with his well-taken goal on 34 minutes, following good work from midfielder Sean Neary, catapulting Castlegar into a lead that they would never surrender.

In addition, centre-half forward Connolly also converted four frees during this time which spoke volumes for the sharpshooter given he had lacked a certain consistency in his shooting from placed balls in the first-half.

Such, though, was Connolly’s influence on this contest and his personal tally of 1-9, 0-7 from frees, from Castlegar’s total of 2-13 underlined what a pivotal figure he was to their attack.

This was also evident in the first half, after which Castlegar had trailed 1-6 to 0-7. Connolly hit four of those Cashel points, two from play, but he also failed to convert a number of placed balls, including a penalty, two frees and a 65 in this time.

Indeed, a relieved Clarinbridge seemed to grow from goalkeeper Rian Flanagan’s penalty save in the opening minutes – after Cashel full-forward Thomas Kimball was adjudged to have been taken down – and by the ninth minute it was they who boasted of a 1-3 to 0-3 lead.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.