By Niall Gartland
CASTLEBLAYNEY have won their fourth ever Ulster Junior Championship after kicking for home in the final ten minutes of their final joust with St Eunan’s last Sunday.
It was a gripping battle with the Monaghan side coming out on top on a scoreline of 2-16 to 1-15, and their manager Kevin Moloney says they’ll properly savour it without getting too caught up in the All-Ireland series.
They travel to London in a week’s time to face All-British Champions Sean Treacy’s but Moloney is realistic about the road ahead as only once has an Ulster team emerged triumphant in the All-Ireland Junior Hurling Championship, that being Creggan Kickhams of Antrim in 2014.
That said, Castleblayney made it all the way to the All-Ireland final in 2019, losing by four points to Kilkenny side Dunnamagin, so perhaps Moloney is being a little modest.
Speaking on Monday, he said: “We haven’t got word of the day or venue yet so our trip to London is a major headache logistically, we’d prefer if they had to travel to us but such is the luck of the draw so we’re not complaining.
“It’s the only game we’re thinking of right now, you can’t get ahead of yourself or you’re setting yourself up for a fall. There’s only one game and that’s the next game. If you look at the thing realistically, it always seems to be a Kilkenny or Cork team that wins the All-Ireland Junior so that’s arguably a different level to where we’re at.”
Castleblayney showed all their know-how and experience as they finished strongly to claim provincial honours against a talented St Eunan’s side.
Only four points separated the teams at the final whistle, a contrast to their surprisingly straightforward semi-final win over Cootehill, but Moloney knew it wasn’t going to be an easy day at the office.
“It was a good game, we got a cracking start with two goals in the first five minutes and after that it was very much tit-for-tat. It was level heading into the final ten minutes but we hit a purple patch to get ahead in the closing stages. Look we always knew it was going to be a tough game, St Eunan’s beat a strong Swatragh side in the semis, so it was exactly what we expected.”
While winning an Ulster Junior title is nothing new for the majority of the starting line-up, nor do they take coming up trumps on the provincial stage for granted.
“It’s brilliant, it’s the fourth one we’ve won as a club and we’ll take any that we can get. It’s fantastic, this year especially as we’ve had a couple of younger lads coming through so this is especially important for them.”
On the celebrations, he said: “We went back to the Old Coach Inn after the game and several other places were visited as well, most of the lads got back home around 1am.
“They enjoyed the victory and that’s important, if you can’t celebrate winning a final then there’s no point in playing really,” the manager added.