Town advance to junior final

Town advance to junior final

27 March 2024

CASTLEWELLAN Town will be making an appearance in this year’s Junior Shield final against St Mary’s on April 17 after overcoming Taughmonagh Young Men at the Blanchflower Stadium last Wednesday.

Billed as an expected close contest before the first whistle was blown, the Town simply proved better in every department on the night and overpowered their opponents with high pressing, plenty of energy and most importantly, their ability to find the net.

Castlewellan went into the interval boasting a goal advantage thanks to the efforts of Ryan McCullagh, who got his toe to the ball ahead of advancing Taughmonagh custodian Stephen Cairnduff to open the scoring with 32 minutes played.

The Town knew that if they simply didn’t concede they would advance into the final and indeed the Castlewellan outfit went one better and added another goal, courtesy of striker Rhys Clarke, who refused to rush his shot before sealing the victory for his side.

Pre-match line-ups revealed Castlewellan striker Karol Jarosinski had not recovered from his injury he sustained the weekend before and thus Ryan McCullagh was brought into the forward line to assist Rhys Clarke.

But, it didn’t appear as though Castlewellan were short any-where on the pitch as from the first whistle they gained possession and began to press forward.

Taughmonagh seemed to lack in the midfield area and in turn, forfeited possession regularly to the efforts of Castlewellan’s Conall Corrigan, Danny McKay and Matthew Stratton.

In defence, the Town were marshalled by a man of the match performance from Adam Garland with team-mates Cormac Barr, Ciarnan Stratton and Ruairi McArdle also assured in their defending.

Taughmonagh’s chances came at a premium, although they did miss a glorious opportunity when striker Jake Blair found himself completely on his own inside the Castlewellan box, only to fire his header wide of the target.

This rare blip was corrected by the Town defence immediately and Castlewellan started threading their passes together with fluidity.

The opening goal stemmed from a Taughmonagh kick out which was won by Castlewellan skipper Corrigan, who played a quick pass and receive 

to Danny McKay, before launching forward to team-mate Clarke.

The Town striker then delicately lofted his pass into the path of the onrushing McCullagh, who was too quick for the Young Men’s defence and goalkeeper to open the scoring.

Castlewellan almost added a second before the break when a long, invasive throw-in into the box was flicked on by the head of Danny McKay before crashing off the post.

After the interval, Castlewellan kept applying pressure and a number of Taughmonagh shirts succumbed to injury as legs continued to tire.

Young Men custodian Cairnduff saw a number of his clearances spiral into the air which invited more pressure and eventually, with less than ten minutes remaining, this pressure tolled as Castlewellan substitute Jason Croskery advanced down the right flank, before holding the ball up just enough to allow team-mate Clarke to get into position.

Croskery’s cross was partially saved by Cairnduff but the rebound fell to Clarke, who took a touch to his left before firing into the back of the net.

At this point the Taughmonagh supporters knew it was over and headed for the exits while the volume of the Castlewellan fans continued to increase.

The Town ran down the clock until referee Jamie Gordon sounded his whistle for the final time.

Following the conclusion, Castlewellan captain Conall Corrigan reflected on his team’s winning performance.

“It was a tough one, semi-finals are never easy and to get over the line, finally, it’s such a massive achievement to get to the final,” he said.

“We knew we are a very fit team, they were going to have to push out in the second half and that made space for the likes of Ryan McCullagh and Rhys Clarke, who are lightning fast.

“Ryan is a more than capable striker, he never usually plays there as he has been playing on the wings the last few weeks but he’s a very strong lad, quick, fit and clinical.”

He added: “We have boys ready, 19 to 20 players training every week, so if one s out we have plenty more capable to step in.”

Castlewellan: R Burns, C Barr, C Stratton, A Garland, R McArdle, C Corrigan (capt), D McKay, M Stratton, R Clarke, R McCullagh, E Travers.

Subs: C Cope, J Croskery, M Watson, B Travers.

Yellow card: C Corrigan.

Taughmonagh: S Cairnduff, B White, G Bingham, A Logan, S Hislop, C Bacon, E Kennedy, J Blair, J Flanagan, J McDowell , J Nicholson.

Subs: D Addis, D Bingham, L Rice, B Masson, J Masson. Yellow card: J Flanagan.

Referee: J Gordon.