By Daire Walsh
DESPITE the best efforts of star attackers Fionn Murray and Conor Guilfoyle, Thomas Davis fell just short against Castleknock in the Dublin Minor ‘A’ Football Championship decider at O’Toole Park on Sunday.
The Tallaght men had been on course to prevail after they carved out a 0-15 to 1-10 lead on 47 minutes.
The central axis of Murray and Guilfoyle had proven to be thorns in the side of the Castleknock defence throughout the course of the action – their combined final tally of 14 points providing Davis’ with a realistic shot at claiming the top-tier title.
However, Castleknock had scoring aces of their own in the form of dynamic triumvirate Luke Swan, Conor Murray and Conor Chawke.
They stepped up to the plate in the closing-quarter and ultimately propelled Castleknock towards a somewhat flattering six-point triumph.
There has been a feel-good factor around Thomas Davis in 2019 with the Kiltipper outfit having recently progressed to a Senior ‘A’ final for the first time in 28 years.
Fionn Murray gave their faithful followers reason to be cheerful with an early two-point salvo and this was supplemented by Guilfoyle’s close-range effort on seven minutes.
Having played out an entertaining draw with Castleknock in the group stages of the competition, ‘Davis were acutely aware of what their Somerton Park counterparts might produce in response.
Conor Murray’s superb brace got them up and running and, while his namesake Fionn fired back with an expertly-struck ’45’, ‘Knock gradually assumed control around the middle-third.
Conor Murray, Cian Boyle and Evan McSherry squeezed them in front with quickfire points before Davis’ suffered a hammer blow on 20 minutes – dual county minor Luke Swan palming home for the maiden goal of the game.
This looked set to open the floodgates with Chawke (free), corner-back Robert O’Shea, Swan and Fionn Gibbons further stretching out the Castleknock lead.
Davis’ were struggling to curtail the pace and power of the westside men, until an encouraging end to the opening period reinvigor-ated their sense of purpose.
The dependable pair of Fionn Murray (two) and Guilfoyle found the range to leave their deficit at five points (1-9 to 0-7) during the interval.
Davis’ were beginning to gather momentum once again and within 11 minutes of the resumption, they had restored parity to a gripping affair.
The exceptional Fionn Murray was the go-to player in this spell – kicking four points to bolster his already-impressive individual haul.
Kevin Mullarkey also split the posts at a tight-angle, throwing down the gauntlet to Castleknock in the process.
Their initial reply was emphatic as half-forward Ronan McCann opened their second half account with a hard-earned point.
Davis’ were playing the more enterprising football at this juncture, though, and they conjured additional scores from wing-back Jamie McDonnell, Guilfoyle and Fionn Murray. Yet just when the odds seemed to be stacked against them, Castleknock regained focus with a clinical final-quarter showing.
Swan, McCann (free) and Conor Murray raised white flags to compliment Chawke’s 0-3 salvo – leaving them in pole position to secure the silverware on offer. Fionn Murray’s 10th point on the hour mark kept Davis’ within touching distance, but the outcome was placed beyond doubt deep into stoppage-time.
With their southside rivals throwing caution to the wind, Castleknock turned over possession and counter-attacked in devastating fashion. Chawke and raiding centre-back Senan Forker bore down on isolated Davis’ netminder Sean O’Reilly, and the latter’s simple three-point finish was enough to put the tie to bed.
CASTLEKNOCK: C Kelly; T Mantero Belard, D Bohan, R O’Shea; B Harding, S Forker, A Watson; J Kelly, F Gibbons; E McSherry, L Swan, R McCann; C Boyle, C Murray, C Chawke. Subs: E Sawyer for McSherry (57), M Byrne for McCann (58), T Norton for Harding (62), J Dargan Akiwumi for Boyle (66).
THOMAS DAVIS: S O’Reilly; S Byrne, C Winders, D Nugent; B Keogh, L McDonnell, J McDonnell; A Waddick, L Dempsey; L Gannon, F Murray, P Kennedy; K Mullarkey, C Guilfoyle, L Giglione. Subs: C Davis for Keogh (50), D Horan for Mullarkey (57), D Hogan for McDonnell (66).
Referee: D Sweeney (St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh).