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GAA: BIRR LEFT IN COLD BY CLASSY TOWN; Castletown 2-10; Birr 1-08; Reigning Leinster hurling champions lose out in thriller.

LAOIS champions Castletown wrote a glorious chapter into their history books as they produced their greatest ever display to dethrone the reigning Leinster club hurling champions, Birr.

In a truly magnificent quarter final at O'Moore Park, Castletown laid to rest the ghost of two previous defeats by the Offaly champions.

The game surpassed all expectations as both teams produced a memorable game of hurling that had the crowd on the edge of their seats right until the final whistle.

That Castletown won was because of a superb team display that knocked the champions off their stride and a spirit that showed scant regard for their opponents.

This was championship hurling at its best. It was teak tough with no quarter asked or given as two mighty club sides fought for supremacy.

Birr had twice beaten Castletown in recent finals and there was an awful lot at stake in this the third meeting of the team.

Engrossing

The game was a highly charged affair from the throw in and while the early stages were low in scoring, the contest on the field was engrossing as both teams, with an abundance of skill, produced it to glowing effect.

Birr led by the minimum margin at half time after Castletown had gifted them a goal in a top class 35 minutes of hurling but the second half was to prove even better.

The home team came from behind to take the lead and then defended it against all that the top club team of the 1990s could throw at them.

The scoring was indeed low in the opening half and while David Cuddy gave Castletown the initiative with a point in the seventh minute, midfielder Barry Whelehan had the sides level within minutes.

Then disaster struck for the Laois champions as Brian Whelehan's 65-metre free was deflected into the net by wing back Robert Delaney as it dropped short in the square.

It was a cruel blow for the player and his team but it failed to affect their confidence and two rapid points from Michael Butler and David Cuddy narrowed the gap to a single point as Birr led by 1-3 to five points at the break.

The reigning champions started the second half as if they were going to hurl Castletown off the field and two points from wing back Niall Claffey and Liam Power had them three points clear inside a minute.

Castletown then struck for their first and crucial goal. A free from David Cuddy from 75 metres found Pat Phelan inside the defence and although quickly surrounded, he managed a one-handed strike to leave the teams level again.

Twenty minutes into the second half came the second killer goal when David Cuddy again launched a long range free towards the Birr square.

Smashing

His brother Padreag caught it and hand-passed for the incoming Michael Butler to finish to the net for a smashing goal.

It was heart stopping stuff now as Castletown defended a one goal lead and Birr swept down field in search of the equaliser but despite the sternest of pressure, the Laois defence stood firm and with great discipline repulsed all attacks.

Two points from David Cuddy and substitute Brian Ferns gave Castletown a five points advantage and despite three intense minutes of injury time, they held out for a famous victory.

Castletown now play Kilkenny champions Graigue Ballycallan in the semi- final next weekend.

CASTLETOWN: J Lyons; M Phelan, Paul Cuddy, S Hanlon, R Delaney, C Cuddy, J Palmer, F O'Sullivan 0-1, E Doley, Pat Cuddy, J O'Sullivan, D Cuddy 0-5, R Kingston, P Phelan 1-2, M Butler 1-1. Sub: B Ferns 0-1 for Doley.

BIRR: B Mullins; G Cahill, J Errity, D Franks, J P Omeara, Brian Whelehan 1-2, N Claffey 0-1, J Pilkington, Barry Whelehan, L Power 0-2, C McGlone, D Pilkington, R Hannify, G Hannify 0-2, S Whelehan. Subs: P Murphy for McGlone, P Carroll for D Pilkington.

REFEREE: P Aherne (Carlow).

CAPTION(S):

TITANIC TUSSLE: Close encounter midfield action from Castletown and Birr at O'Moore Park
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 6, 2000
Words:676
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