2003/04 All Ireland winning run Match Reports.
The great voyage to success for the Caltra senior footballers began when they overcame Barna in the first round of the County Championship at Corofin. The first round of a championship always proves to be a nervous occasion and Caltra with Enda and Michael Meehan on the injured list, Damien Cunniffe on the substitutes bench returning from injury and Shane Hogan leaving the field of play injured after 23 minutes it was always going to be a tough struggle.
In the match report Ciaran Tierney of the Connacht Tribune wrote “Caltra began at a blistering pace, with Gately and Tomas Meehan mopping up a lot of ball around the middle of the park while Noel Meehan (two points) and Matthew Killilea had registered three points from play within eight minutes of the throw-in.
Friel steadied Barna with two frees, but full-forward Noel Meehan -who sent over six points in all- replied with a 30 yard effort at the other end. Caltra were four points up by the 23rd minute, when Noel Meehan provided a perfect pass for Kevin Killilea to blast the ball expertly to the top left hand corner of the net, although the withdrawal of young Hogan was a blow to the East Galway side”.
A controversial goal for Barna when goalkeeper Darren Smyth who appeared to be fouled as the ball crossed the line was allowed stand and brought Barna right back into the game. The half time score was Caltra 1-5, Barna 1-4.
Ciaran Tierney from the Connacht Tribune again wrote “Caltra showed renewed vigour after the break, with Matthew Killilea firing over two fine points within five minutes, the second following a good run by substitute Colm Kilroy. Further points from Kevin Killilea and Meehan appeared to have them in the driving seat within ten minutes of the restart. Barna failed to raise a flag for 17 minutes after the restart, but then they sparked to life by scoring 1-2 without reply. D. Flaherty blasted a penalty to the bottom left hand corner of the net after he was hauled down in the square and points from Friel and Flaherty had the teams back on level terms with ten minutes to go. But Galvin’s wonderful strike to the roof of the net gave the initiative back to Caltra and, while Meehan and Friel exchanged frees, Caltra went on to dominate the closing stages and could even afford a couple of missed frees.
Noel Meehan and Kevin Killilea both crowned fine individual performances with fine scores in the last few minutes, while Friel also scored an excellent point at the other end.
A four point margin in the end summed up a reasonably comfortable win for Caltra, for whom Noel and Tomas Meehan, the Killileas, Paul Gately, Jarlath Murray and Colm Kilroy were the most influential players. Had they not conceded two avoidable goals, it could have been a cruise in the sunshine for the victors.
Caltra 2-12 Barna 2-8
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; D. Smith, J. Murray, K. Gavin, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan, O. Kelly, P. Gately, O. Hennelly, T. Meehan,
J. Galvin (1-0), M. Killilea (0-3), B. Laffey, S. Hogan,N. Meehan (0-6, 2 frees), K. Killilea (1-3, 0-2 frees).
Subs; C. Kilroy for Hogan (23 mins), D. Costello for B. Kilroy (29 mins), D. Cunniffe for B. Laffey (44 mins).
In the end, the maturity of Caltra was the essential difference. Guided, controlled and inspired by the Meehan brothers, they always had the edge over a brave but far less experienced Carna-Cashel, and their five-point winning margin at Pearse Stadium is not an unfair reflection of the disparity between them.
But the Connemara side was no push over. A team of big men, highly motivated, with some exciting skills, they set the early pace, and just when Caltra were beginning to race ahead produced a lovely piece of individual skill that brought their goal which momentarily shook the eventual winners.
What they lacked is what Caltra had in abundance . . . experience, pace and confidence. Dwarfed in many positions by their opposite numbers, Caltra used the broad flanks of the pitch to give width to their greater acceleration. And in the second half when Carna began to falter, the speed of the winners became a vital weapon. But the losers had their chances in the second half to make it hot for Caltra. Michael Cloherty was unlucky to have a shot crack back of the crossbar in the 39th minute and a similar fate befell Mark Clancy a while later.
There was a rare old battle at midfield between Seamus Cloherty and Conor Coyne of Carna-Caiseal and Ollie Hennelly and Damien Cunniffe. The duel between Coyne and Hennelly in particular was fascinating, the Carna man gaining the upper hand.
But it was the Meehan clan who left the biggest impression - Declan and Tom in defence and Michael and Noel in the full-forward line - each outshining the other in feats of individual brilliance.
The score of the match, however, came from Carna-Caiseal. They were trailing by three points in the 28th minute when Niall Coyne was given possession by Ronan Fallon. The full forward hit for goal, jinking past a couple of defenders before slamming the ball with his left foot in the narrow space between the right upright and goalkeeper Darren Smith.
It brought the scores to level terms for the third time. Carna had taken an early lead with points by Coyne and John Flaherty. But three in a row followed from Colm Kilroy and Noel and Michael Meehan. Then the lead changed hands again through Conor and Niall Coyne.
It looked as if Carna were being slowly edged out of the game when Michael and Noel Meehan and Matthew Killilea, and John Galvin - who were also in flying form - gave Caltra a three-point lead after 24 minutes.
But then came Coyne’s goal and the chance to revitalise the Carna-Caiseal challenge.
It was an opportunity they failed to grasp. For their delight at Coyne’s goal was turned to disappointment seconds later when Michael Meehan crashed home Caltra’s major.
That came three minutes into injury time. Meehan’s first shot was well saved by goalkeeper Donal Dowd, but Noel picked up the parried ball and presented Michael with an opportunity he did not refuse. It left the winners ahead at the interval by 1-7 to 1-4.
The scores did not come as frequently after the break, but the exchanges were no less intense. Michael Meehan and John Flaherty swapped points in the early stages. But there was a lull in the scoring for nearly ten minutes during which the defences on each side excelled.
Flaherty at centre half-back was always driving the Connemara challenge, his best support coming from Donie O’Sullivan and Bartley Casey, while the Meehans, Tom and Declan, Kevin Gavin and Jarlath Murray were on top for Caltra.
But all the time Caltra were maintaining the edge and John Galvin and Michael Meehan had them ahead by five points twenty minutes into the second half. Niall Coyne did pull back two for Carna-Caiseal, but they were negated by two from Kevin Killilea and Noel Meehan.
And it took a great save from Donal Dowd to deny Kevin Killilea a second goal for Caltra in the dying minutes.
The Carna centre halfback was sent to the line near the end for a heavy foul on Michael Meehan. But the outcome of the game was sealed at that stage.
Caltra 1-12 Carna-Cashel 1-7
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; D. Smith, J. Murray, K. Gavin, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan, T. Meehan, O.Kelly, O. Hennelly, D. Cunniffe, C. Kilroy (0-1), M. Killilea (0-1), J.Galvin (0-2), K. Killilea (0-1), M. Meehan (1-4), N. Meehan (0-3).
Subs; S.Hogan for C. Kilroy, B. Laffey for Hogan.
The win over county champions Corofin was a major confidence booster for the Caltra team and as they did in all games, the Caltra defence excelled and held them pointless from play. In the Tuam Herald report of August 28th 2003 Jim Carney wrote as follows;
“It was the end of an era at Tuam Stadium on Sunday evening. Even if Corofin bounce back next year, it may be a long time before they will again be installed as automatic Championship favourites, and it may be just as long before they regain their old hunger and drive.
When Corofin pressed the button the response simply wasn’t there. Most of this team are young but they’ve played a massive amount of football and they’re only human.
To their immense credit, they lost no honour in this defeat: they had no complaints and they freely acknowledged they were beaten by a better team on the day.
There was only a kick or a flick of the ball in it at the final whistle, but that was mainly because Caltra shot four wides in a second-half spell in which they were playing superb football back the field. They could have pulled away for an easy win at that stage but the wides - including a blistering goalbound drive by sub Anthony Keighery, which went just outside a post - kept this quarter-final alive as a contest and Corofin were attacking at the final whistle.
It was Caltra’s day. They were magnificent, from start to finish. I have to admit I doubted the ability of the Caltra defence to hold the Corofin forwards, and I also feared that Michael Meehan - he’s not yet 19, remember - might not be able to stay sharp after a brutally heavy workload over the past two years, both at second and third level in colleges competitions, for his county in minor, under-21 and senior in successive years, and of course for his club in the same grades.
However, all fears were groundless. The Caltra backs were brilliant on Sunday: Enda Meehan and Kevin Gavin brought physical strength and steadiness to the central positions; Brian Kilroy got in a great deflection early in the game, the kind of thing a corner-back loves to do to get into the very heart of his day’s work; similarly Jarlath Murray made one mighty blockdown in the second half, which showed a defence ready, willing and able to be defiant, and on the wings Declan Meehan and county minor Oisin Kelly were smartly onto the breaking ball and always likely to use it well.
In terms of individual excellence, Declan and Michael Meehan were the two best players on the pitch in the first half, after which Caltra led by four points, 0-7 to 0-3. Michael Meehan shot six of his team’s seven points (four frees) and Declan got the other one, a huge kick from play, from well out the field, on the right wing.
Amazingly - could it ever have happened before in the Championship? - Corofin went through the whole game without scoring a point from play. All their points on Sunday came from frees, by Alan O’Donovan and Emmet Killeen.
Playing into the town end in the second half, the so-called scoring goal, Corofin were near enough if good enough, but Caltra were on top in all departments and surrender was out of the question.
A lively first half produced a higher-tempo, totally committed second period, for which both teams deserve equal praise. Corofin forced a penalty with all of twenty minutes to go, but Kieran Comer saw his low shot to the keeper’s right saved by Darren Smyth on the line. It was a wonderful stop by the brave, agile 19 year old.
And crucial too, for while Corofin did get a goal five minutes later, from play by Derek Reilly, with the help of a Kieran Comer deflection, by then Caltra had added four points to their half-time tally.
Corofin played some good football in the final quarter, but, battling to stay ahead at 0-11 to 1-5, Caltra were rewarded as the teams shot just a point apiece in the closing stages. Another major factor in Caltra’s favour was the huge workrate of their two midfielders, Oliver Hennelly and Damien Cunniffe. In the tight exchanges especially, Hennelly was a man inspired and inspiring, in possibly his finest hour for his club.
Damien Cunniffe, another good servant, also stood up to be counted, covering a lot of ground, while the same can be said of the team captain Noel Meehan who led by personal example.
Not forgetting the Caltra sideline; they made good use of their subs: Anthony Keighery, Shane Hogan, Colm Kilroy and, not least, Kevin Kilroy who was alert and assured in goal after the penalty-save hero Darren Smyth got a knock which forced him out of the action.
No blame is attached to anybody in the losing camp, on or off the field; most likely it was just one of those days when the opposition come at you fresh and mad keen to make a mark, and you find yourself stale from having seen and done it all before.
Caltra 0-12 Corofin 1-6
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; D. Smyth, B. Kilroy, E. Meehan, J. Murray, D. Meehan (0-1), K. Gavin, O. Kelly (0-1), O. Hennelly, D. Cunniffe, T. Meehan, M. Killilea, J. Galvin, N. Meehan (0-2) captain, M. Meehan (0-7, five frees), K. Killilea (0-1).
Subs; A. Keighery for Galvin, K. Kilroy for Smyth, S. Hogan for K. Killilea, C. Kilroy for D. Cunniffe.
With the victories over Barna, Carna-Cashel and Corofin behind them, Caltra now faced near neighbours and great rivals Mountbellew-Moylough in the County semi-final at Tuam Stadium. In the Connacht Tribune Frank Farragher on the following Thursday wrote;
“This tie was always going to be finely balanced with a Mountbellew side tight in defence and powerful in midfield facing a young Caltra outfit, high in confidence and with the real bonus of a selection of scoring forwards. In their quarter-final outing against Milltown, Mountbellew might have been adjudged to have been on the right side of the breaks but this time around a lot of things went wrong for them and, of the two sides, they will probably feel the slightly more relieved to have another chance at securing a county final place against Killererin. Mountbellew-Moylough had a very unfortunate start to this match when in the opening minutes their star forward Derry O’Brien had to be stretchered off after apparently being caught by a cog as he went to ground following a race for possession. When Caltra goalie Kevin Kilroy brought off an excellent 12th minute save from Eoin Wall in what was the only real goal chance of the match, Mountbellew might have felt this just wasn’t going to be their day although from the resultant 45 David Donnellan landed a fine point to secure their first score of the match. As the half wore on, Caltra gradually got to grips with the formidable Mountbellew midfield partnership of Fergal Gavin and Joe Bergin, negating the influence of that duo by keeping the ball to the wings and mopping up a lot of the breaking ball between the 45s. This was tight and tough stuff though - never a classic game by any yardstick but still quite riveting from the point of view of competitiveness with every score going to be hard earned. Caltra were a little ‘nervy’ early on giving a few balls away without being under undue pressure, indiscretions punished by Conor Crehan and a David Donnellan free but yet by the 22nd minute it was all square at 0-3 each - John Galvin, Michael Meehan and Matthew Killilea hitting the target for Caltra.
In the final 10 minutes of the half, Mountbellew though began to feel the heat, enduring a rare relatively inactive spell at midfield as Caltra powered forward with Noel Meehan, Michael Meehan, Matthew Killilea and the enterprising John Galvin all hitting the target to give them a 0-7 to 0-3 interval lead. The half-time break could not come fast enough for Mountbellew but at least it did give them the space for a ‘time out’ to come to terms with O’Brien’s loss and the fact that they were looking into another championship exit at the semi-final stage. The response from Mountbellew though was characteristically resilient and predictable in its sources with midfielders Fergal Gavin and Joe Bergin really digging deep to put the comeback train back on track. With their main scoring machine gone, the onus was on that duo to hit the target as well as in winning possession. Gavin, one of the great servants of Mountbellew football over the years, delivered the key score of the half after two minutes when he took on the responsibility to swing over a great left footed point. Beside him Bergin was now popping up all over the place winning clean ball in the air as well as always being available to take a pass on the run - three times he looped over points which kept his side in touch during ‘troubled times in the fields’. In that first 10 minutes of the second half, Caltra scarcely managed to get the ball once inside the Mountbellew half such was the midfield stranglehold exerted by Gavin and Bergin also strongly allied by centre back Conor Naughton and industrious wing forward Eoin Wall. Michael Meehan did snipe off a good free in the 40th minute but when a Bergin special levelled the match at 0-8 each by the 51st minute, the game seemed up for Caltra. It was now their turn to dig deep with a Mountbellew side backed by the stiffish wind now on a roll but Caltra delivered a massive response when corner forward Noel Meehan kicked an inspirational 50 yard point from play. A 55th minute scramble in the Caltra goalmouth ended with Tomas Meehan bringing off a goal line clearance amidst opposition claims that he had picked the ball off the ground but referee Padraig Joyce was having none of it - at that point trailing by 0-9 to 0-8, again Mountbellew might have been forgiven for thinking that this wasn’t their day. Their rescue ship though arrived with one minute of normal time remaining when Eoin Wall cut down the right wing before pointing from a tight angle - it was a fitting reward for one of Mountbellew’s most hard working players.
Even after that there were a couple of hints of half chances. Caltra’s Michael Meehan was dispossessed about 45 yards out when with a bit of space he could have possibly hit the target. Mountbellew had a late injury time 45 yard free near the left sideline which they kicked short when the option of giving Joe Bergin a straight shot at the target might have been worth a go - overall though the draw was a fair outcome. Mountbellew as always defended well with keeper Dermot Donnellan very alert and confident between the posts while Colm Colleran, John Hogan and Conor Naughton were also to the fore. The engine of the team is in the midfield sector of Bergin and Gavin while up front Eoin Wall worked very hard - David Donnellan also kicked some good placed balls.
Caltra though are a promising young team and not short of belief either. Keeper Kevin Kilroy brought off the save of the match from Wall and looked very solid all through while Enda Meehan, Brian Kilroy, Declan Meehan and Kevin Gavin also defended well. Although Ollie Hennelly and Damien Cuniffe couldn’t live with the aerial power of Gavin and Bergin they fought hard for the scraps while up front John Galvin, Matthew Killilea, Noel Meehan and Michael Meehan made good use of limited possession. The wides tally of 11 to Mountbellew and three to their opponents probably gives an accurate reflection of the possession graph and sums up Caltra’s main teaser in the run-up to the replay on Sunday week next.
Caltra 0-9 Mountbellew-Moylough 0-9
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; K. Kilroy, J. Murray, E. Meehan, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan, K. Gavin, O. Kelly, O. Hennelly, D. Cunniffe, T. Meehan, M. Killilea (0-2 one free), J Galvin (0-2), N. Meehan (0-2), M. Meehan (0-3 two frees), K. Killilea.
Subs; S. Hogan for K. Killilea (47mins), C. Kilroy for D. Cunniffe (56mins).
The Caltra team and management had learned a lesson from the drawn game “That you won’t play good football when nervous or fear defeat”, and so a more relaxed Caltra side were winners over Mountbellew-Moylough in the replay. In the Connacht Tribune match report Frank Farragher wrote;
“This was a far more composed and settled display from Caltra than in the drawn game two weeks ago and, in fairness, had the winners been a tad more economical with the chances they created, the margin of victory could have been far greater. It was a disappointing championship conclusion for Mountbellew-Moylough who can seem to go so far in the championship and no further. They battled well in defence, won a reasonable supply of midfield ball but they did not have anything like the attacking options which Caltra had. As well as that they made a lot more basic mistakes than in the drawn match.
In terms of the tactical battle, Caltra managed to land the vital blows - especially early on. They opted to play with a two man full forward line of Michael and Noel Meehan, left a pile of space in front of them, ending up with 1-5 on the scoreboard by the 15th minute, the scores which effectively won the match.
Initially, Mountbellew had opted for a straight man to man marking job before deciding on the strategy of playing wing back Raymond Murray to fill the space between the full back line and half line. By then though, a lot of the damage had been done.
That said though, Mountbellew-Moylough’s essential problems were at the other end of the pitch. Midfielder Joe Bergin kicked four of their points, corner forward David Donnellan kicked three frees with the total being completed by wing back Raymond Murray. Eoin Wall, Mark Geraghty and Conor Crehan did try hard but the attacking unit desperately lacked real scoring power.
Crucially this time out Caltra managed to win a solid 50-50 share of the possession between the two 45s. It mightn’t have been all clean ball...they battled in packs for possession, broke a lot of ball and were quite ingenious, if a little into risk, in winning their own kick-outs. Ollie Hennelly also worked like a trooper all day - once Caltra had secured this possession foothold they had the forwards to deliver the hits.
Caltra’s goal in the 2nd minute of the match had the Meehan franchise stamped all over it. Wing back Declan picked out Michael with a perfect ball into the right corner and after he cut open the Mountbellew defence, Noel was on hand to palm the cross ball to the net.
Indeed over the course of the hour, Caltra were desperately unlucky not to have hit the net on two other occasions with Matt Killilea in the 14th minute and Michael Meehan in the 53rd minute both being denied by two brilliant saves from Mountbellew goalkeeper Dermot Donnellan. Significantly, though from each of the resultant 45s, Michael Meehan drove the ball between the posts.
Two Matt Killilea frees as well as four points shared by Noel and Michael Meehan helped Caltra to a 1-6 to 0-5 interval lead with the Mountbellew-Moylough resistance movement essentially about one man - midfielder Joe Bergin who kicked three super points in a row in the last five minutes of the half to give his side an interval lifeline.
An early second half David Donnellan pointed free reduced the deficit to three, at 1-6 to 0-6, but this was as close as Mountbellew were to come with a string of Caltra points from Matt Killilea, Michael Meehan and Noel Meehan putting the game out of reach. On another day (and Caltra will be hoping that’s county final day), Michael Meehan might well have doubled his five point tally.
Caltra will now look forward to their county final date with Killererin in the first Sunday in October with a lot more zest and confidence than they would have, had they scraped through in the drawn game. Their level of improvement between the two matches was quite stunning and they do have the forwards to clock up a decent score. Enda Meehan, Brian Kilroy, Declan Meehan, Kevin Gavin, Paul Gately and Ollie Hennelly delivered most of the vital ball wins which provided the ammunition for their main snipers up front in the Meehans - Michael and Noel - and Matt Killilea.
Happy times for Caltra and overall a great renaissance for the club. The hunger for a first ever county senior success will fill the motivation tanks to overflow - if they can temper that gush of enthusiasm with the cool heads they showed last Sunday they are in with a chance. A Joyce-Meehan shoot-out at the Pearse Stadium coral on October 5th should be OK for drama and hits!
Caltra 1-12 Mountbellew-Moylough 0-9
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; K. Kilroy, J. Murray, E. Meehan, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan, K. Gavin, P. Gately, O. Hennelly, D. Cunniffe, T. Meehan, J. Galvin, M. Killilea 0-3 (2 frees), M. Meehan 0-5 (2 45s, 1 free), N. Meehan 1-4 ( 2 frees), C. Kilroy.
Subs; B. Laffey for Galvin (43) S. Hogan for C. Kilroy (56) O. Kelly for Gately (60).
The winning of the Club’s first County Senior Title against Killererin at Pearse Stadium on Sunday October 5th 2004 was indeed very special and Francis Farragher in the Connacht Tribune reported as follows;
“A green tidal wave from the east, with well over a century of swell behind it, rolled into Salthill on Sunday and sank everything in its path ... yes Caltra have arrived as a football force in Galway and this final act of achievement came smothered with style, vigour and dash.
A first ever County Senior football title is always a special moment in time for any club and for the parish of Caltra and Ahascragh, October’s first Sunday of 2003 will be forever etched into the lore of the area, but few if any of their supporters could have envisaged the scale of their demolition of the Killererin challenge.
In the broad expanse of Pearse Stadium this was a victory for youth, pace and a free spirit. Killererin did resist sternly for the best part of 17 minutes but their collapse when it came was both spectacular and sudden as they were ran ragged by a youthful Caltra side.
Caltra have a long and proud tradition of football behind them but in the run-up to this final they would surely have settled for a one point victory - however as the game ticked into its final quarter and they surged further and further ahead, some of their most diehard supporters must have wondered if they were dreaming.
Yards first to the ball and gushing with enthusiasm, Caltra - once they had survived a nervous first quarter - were in a different class to Killererin, their forward armoury containing the Michael Meehan warhead which blew asunder the opposing defensive cover.
Meehan had been threatening for some time to deliver a ‘big one’ and he could have picked no bigger stage on the domestic scene to do so with his final tally of 1-8 a fitting statistical tribute to his club’s success.
But this was by no means a one man show with Caltra fired up in all parts of the pitch - indeed as the game wore on it was virtually impossible to pick out one position on the field where Killererin were holding their own.
Killererin will be devastated at the scale of their demise and maybe a lot of small things didn’t go their way but in the cold light of day they must accept that they were outclassed by a Caltra side flush with motivation and purpose. It might be something of an over-simplification but the reality was that Killererin didn’t have the legs to stay with their opponents.
Caltra’s first and second goals set the tone for the game, both coming at crucially psychological times. Michael Meehan’s 17th minute ‘hit’, when they trailed by 0-3 to 0-1 nullified Killererin’s early edge while Paul Gately’s strike just before half-time put them 2-5 to 0-3 ahead and well on the way to a first county title.
Caltra weren’t for turning on this one and although playing into the squall in the second half the boot of the deadly Michael Meehan delivered the first two point strikes of that period to leave Killererin trailing by 2-7 to 0-3 - their hopes of a fourth county senior title by then in tatters.
In terms of tactical strategies both defences operated with an extra man as corner forwards from opposing sides moved to the middle area of the pitch to leave the space inside. Brian Kilroy filled that role for Caltra growing in confidence and influence with every passing minute but for Killererin Gareth Curran wasn’t as successful in cutting out the balls being fired in front of Michael Meehan.
Meehan was at his impish best giving marker Damien Flaherty a virtually impossible task as he jinked and dummied his way around the danger area - crucially the Caltra management also had the wisdom to assign their main scoring threat close to goal. Everytime he got on the ball in that first half a score was almost inevitable.
After an early Padraic Joyce pointed free the signs were ominous for Killererin when Meehan cut inside the Killererin defence but his shot just clipped the top of Alan Keane’s crossbar for a point. Maybe the goal might have been missed but Caltra had struck an early psychological blow.
Killererin though were winning a good supply of early ball and had Padraic Joyce been as accurate as normal then they could at least have doubled their early tally of three points. In that first quarter Killererin were working the ball assiduously out of defence, Tommy Wilson was linking well between defence and attack, while Padraic and Nicky Joyce were getting into good scoring positions.
The change that occurred though after Michael Meehan’s 17th minute goal strike was quite cataclysmic from a Killererin point of view. A long ball through from John Galvin wasn’t cut out by the Killererin defence and Meehan sped through unchallenged to blast the ball to Keane’s net. It was a goal which seemed to get rid of all the Caltra nerves and over the remaining 43 minutes all their tensions and shackles were shed.
Michael Meehan landed two superb frees and one from play; Declan Meehan finished off a splendid move with another point but the moment which effectively sealed Killererin’s fate was a gem of a score which would hold its own with anything in Croke Park on the fourth Sunday in September.
After winning possession on the right hand side of the pitch Michael Meehan curled over a diagonal 30 yard pass into the path of inrushing colleague Paul Gately who had scurried clear of his cover - the wing back then had the coolness to deliver a David Beckham style chip over the imposing frame of Alan Keane into the back of the net for a defining score. It was a sequence of magic which was to tell the tale of Caltra’s and Gately’s day - boldness was to have its way.
When John Galvin cut through the Killererin defence in the 42nd minute to rifle home his side’s third goal putting Caltra into a 3-7 to 0-4 lead the sideline celebrations had already begun - it was that clear-cut with well over a quarter of the match to go.
Caltra could even afford to call in Michael Meehan to the bench for the final six minutes to give Shane Hogan his chance - Meehan was given a standing ovation, a richly deserved tribute for one of the game’s outstanding forward talents. And the best is surely yet to come from this star forward.
It was a day of no weak links in the Caltra chain of honour but Enda Meehan, Brian Kilroy, Declan Meehan, Kevin Gavin and Paul Gately were all defensive heroes - their hunger and temper in getting first to the ball was frantic.
Ollie Hennelly again took the hard work accolade around the middle of the field while Damien Cunniffe also won some good, clean ball until injury forced him to retire at half-time.
Michael Meehan’s forward display had to represent one of the highlights of the Galway footballing year with his crisp striking of the ball both from the hand and the ground making a mockery of the hostile conditions of wind and rain. He also delivered an array of delightful flicks and touches which more often than not set up chances for his forward colleagues.
He was surrounded by workers in attack but the overall workrate of John Galvin must be noted - the story of his match mirrors the tale of Caltra in this county final. Early on a lot of small things didn’t go his way but with every passing minute his confidence and contribution grew - his goal climaxed his, and Caltra’s day.
Not a good day or week for Killererin but they just couldn’t match the hunger, speed or footballing ability of a Caltra side whose name was probably on the Frank Fox Cup for 2003 - and boy did they believe it.
Padraic Joyce tried hard in attack and Nicky Joyce also had a couple of decent runs, but as the game wore on they just ended up being swamped in a sea of green jerseys.
Happy days indeed for Caltra and a fair gush of goodwill is going their way this week in the wake of their mammoth achievement - and deservedly so. Their rate of improvement from the drawn semi-final against Mountbellew has been quite remarkable and their mix of composure with free spirit left all in the 5,000 Pearse Stadium crowd full of admiration. Caltra’s Day of Deliverance was truly worth the 104 year wait!
Caltra 3-11 Killererin 0-5
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; K. Kilroy, J. Murray, E. Meehan, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan (0-1), K. Gavin, P. Gately (1-0), O. Hennelly, D. Cunniffe, T. Meehan, J. Galvin(1-0), M. Killilea, M. Meehan(1-8, five frees), N. Meehan (0-1), C. Kilroy.
Subs; B. Laffey for Cunniffe (h-t), K. Killilea for C. Kilroy (45), S. Hogan (0-1 free) for M. Meehan (55), A. Murray for J. Murray (59), D. Costello for B. Kilroy (60).
The management team and captain Noel Meehan quickly regrouped after the County Final success and impressed on the panel of players that the opportunity to go further in the club championship might never happen in their lifetime and that they should all focus on the first round of the Connacht Championship.
Caltra were drawn to play St. Mary’s of Carrick on Shannon and a trip to Leitrim, with the venue doubtful for days, until the game was fixed for Cloone. Leitrim teams always give of their best on home soil and St. Mary’s were not going to be an exception. The band of followers set off in cars and buses to find the Cloone G.A.A. grounds. The St. Mary’s team were certainly prepared and after the wide spaces of Pearse Stadium, Cloone proved a much tighter pitch for the physically lighter Caltra side. The celebrations after the County final and after a fifteen point win over Killererin were always going to be a telling factor in Caltra’s preparations. This was a close call for Caltra and indeed “backs to the wall stuff”, as the hard pressed defence was put under severe pressure and played their hearts out to hold off St. Mary’s.
Goalkeeper Kevin Kilroy brought off two magnificent saves to deny St. Mary’s a vital goal. St. Mary’s held a half-time lead of 0-4 to 0-3. The turning point of the game came as early as seventeen seconds into the second half when Anthony Keighery passed to Michael Meehan and he found the net. In the 42nd minute things looked anything but good for Caltra as they were reduced to fourteen men as full back Enda Meehan was red carded. Caltra’s great and experienced, “play anywhere”, Tomás Meehan was sent to full back, Jarlath Murray, Paul Gately and Declan Meehan grafted as never before and a John Galvin point put them four points up.
It was indeed backs to the wall after that as St. Mary’s tacked on three points, Kilroy in goal saved superbly and Caltra held on for a one point victory 1-6 to 0-8. Caltra by all media reports deserved their win but it was close and Cloone will be remembered by players, officials and supporters for a long number of years. The Irish Independent headline read “Caltra stumble across the line.
Caltra 1-6 St Mary’s 0-8
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; K. Kilroy, J. Murray, E. Meehan, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan, K. Gavin, P. Gately, O. Hennelly, B. Laffey (0-1), T. Meehan, J. Galvin (0-1), M. Killilea (0-2), M. Meehan (1-1, 0-1 free), N. Meehan (0-1), A. Keighery.
Subs; C. Kilroy for A. Keighery, S. Hogan for B. Laffey,
The management team and trainer had learned a lesson to impart to the team, “We must up our performance each step as the opposition gets better along the voyage”. The press gave little chance to Caltra as they had to head for Hyde Park and take on the Roscommon Champions, Castlerea. Caltra were without both mid-fielders Damien Cunniffe (injured) Ollie Hennelly (on honeymoon) and of course the suspended full-back Enda Meehan. Castlerea were without their inspirational captain Niall Finnegan. A large following on the day and the growing band of supporters was to enjoy another victory. A gem of a goal by Michael Meehan mid-way through the first half after waltzing through the Castlerea defence set the tone for the game as the Castlerea defenders gave away frees- nine of which were pointed, six by Michael Meehan and three by team captain Noel Meehan. Similar to the St. Mary’s game a player was red carded when Jarlath Murray was sent to the line. Once again Caltra produced some of their best football with Declan Meehan inspirational, Kevin Gavin, Paul Gately, Brian Kilroy, Oisin Kelly all starring in defence.
At the other end the Meehans were doing the business getting all but two of the final score. Michael Meehan (1-7) Noel Meehan (0-4) John Galvin and Anthony Keighery (0-1) each and a final score of Caltra 1-13 Castlerea 1-7.
There was relief early in the game for Caltra as the woodwork denied Castlerea scores and late in the game after a quick free to Ger Heneghan was netted only to be whistled back by the referee. This game showed the depth of talent in the Caltra panel and younger players like Shane Hogan, Colm Kilroy and Kevin Killilea got a taste of club championship action.
The display of Michael Meehan on the day was that of a genius and one of his late scores from play from 40 yards out over his shoulder will long be remembered by all at Hyde Park and sent a message to Castlerea that Caltra would not be beaten on the day. Castlerea also finished the game with fourteen men when Martin Raftery was dismissed for a second yellow card for a foul on Michael Meehan, which Noel duly scored but by then there was no denying the right of Caltra to contest their first ever Connacht Club Final.
Caltra 1-13 Castlerea 1-7
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; K. Kilroy, J. Murray, K. Gavin, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan, O. Kelly, P. Gately, T. Meehan (0-1), J. Galvin, B. Laffey, N. Meehan (0-4), M. Killilea, S. Hogan, M. Meehan (1-7), A. Keighery (0-1).
Subs; C. Kilroy for A. Keighery, K. Killilea for S. Hogan.
The Caltra team made further history when they captured the Connacht Club Title at Pearse Stadium on Sunday November 30th at the expense of Curry, the Sligo County Champions. Curry had earlier defeated a fancied Ballina side and really fancied their chances. All year the scoring power of the Caltra forwards carried them through their games but in this game the heroics of the defence will long be remembered. The forwards did show their power early on with Michael Meehan scoring 1-2 and Noel Meehan 0-2 and a further point by John Galvin to leave Caltra leading 1-5 to 0-2 at half time.
The sea breeze so noted in Pearse Stadium was blowing into the faces of the Caltra defence in the second half and it was a rear guard action. In the Connacht Tribune report Frank Farragher wrote “Oisin Kelly, Enda Meehan, Brian Kilroy, Declan Meehan, Kevin Gavin and Paul Gately fought and battled for every ball as if their lives depended on it - at crucial stages when the Curry attack seemed destined to penetrate the home defence a Caltra body would appear from nowhere to bring off a desperate block.
It had to be fiercely frustrating for a Curry side who played some smashing football for most of the hour, also defending heroically as well as finding their men with balls into space - their main failings were that they just couldn’t cope with the intensity of the Caltra defensive shield and with the honourable exception of Maye they didn’t have the forwards to kick points from outside the 30 yard mark.
Curry, as a sign of things to come, enjoyed a lot of possession in the first quarter but only had one point to show for all that effort via the boot of Sean Davey in the second minute - the early Caltra resistance was typified by the vigour and industry of Brian Kilroy who ranged across the full backline to great effect.
Enda Meehan wasn’t far behind either in delivering the defensive hits while Kevin Gavin showed astute positional awareness at centre back sweeping up a lot of through ball from the Curry midfield and half backline.
On one of the rare occasions that the losers’ attack broke through the Caltra lines, wing forward Adrian Marren blazed badly wide when the sides were tied at 0-1 each - that miss probably told a poignant tale for Curry as the same player had run riot on the scoreboard against Ballina in the semi-final.
As the half wore on Caltra secured a bit more possession in the middle of the field and with that supply line established, Michael and Noel Meehan fairly pulverized the Sligo defence. Twice Noel Meehan was fouled and each time brother Michael popped the resultant frees between the posts.
Noel Meehan was always in the thick of the first half Caltra moves. As well as supplying the pass which set up John Galvin for a 16th minute point which put Caltra 0-3 to 0-1 ahead he soloed through before punching over the bar eight minutes before the break and was also involved in the crucial score of the match.
The game had ticked into its 31st minute when a long ball from centre back Kevin Gavin hit the chest of Noel Meehan whose quickfire pass found brother Michael flying through at pace - seconds later and after a couple of hops the Caltra corner forward had rattled the Curry net for what was eventually to prove to be the winning score.
Prior to that it had taken a brave stop from Curry goalkeeper Jeffrey Durcan to deny Brian Laffey a goal from just a couple of yards out but Meehan’s late strike had the Caltra supporters in fairly contented mode during the half-time break.
Although Curry, as in the first half, started strongly in the second period there seemed to be no great danger to the Caltra citadel until the realization began to set in that the Sligo champions were winning ball after ball between the two 45s.
Caltra were on the backfoot for nearly the entire second half but when they dipped into the well of resilience they found it filled to overflow. Declan Meehan operated like a high powered hoover in front of his own posts while at one stage late in the second half even Michael Meehan was back near his own 21 to clear the lines.
Given Curry’s inherent difficulty at picking off points - probably their only weakness but a big one - they needed the boost of a goal to swing the game their way and when Kevin Giblin was nudged in the back midway through the second half by Oisin Kelly, the game looked to be turning the way of the Sligo champions.
Referee Michael Daly pointed to the penalty spot but Garry Maye’s spot kick - struck with rocket force - was a tad too high and skimmed off the top edge of Kevin Kilroy’s crossbar for a point. It was a score... but it was also the miss of a goal which could have swung the match their way.
Maye’s penalty point was one of four scored which the wing forward landed in the second half, but in injury time it was Caltra who came the closest to hitting the net when sub Kevin Killilea was denied a major score by a combination of the finger tips of Curry keeper Jeffrey Durcan and the post. At the time Caltra probably wished that Killilea opted for the insurance point - that followed later from brother Matthew - but there was to be no sting in the tail with Curry never looking like getting a late goal.
A tremendous victory for Caltra based mainly on the ‘blood, sweat and tears’ philosophy, although the Meehan snippets of first half forward play were also central to the side’s success.Looking to the future, Caltra will worry about their second half midfield demise but if raw spirit and sheer stubbornness to accept defeat are anything to go by, they certainly will ‘die with their boots on’ before they bid farewell to the All-Ireland club series.
If one player typified the attitude of the side it was corner back Brian Kilroy but he was surrounded by colleagues with a similar mentality who just refused to submit.
Caltra 1-6 Curry 0-6
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; K. Kilroy, O. Kelly, E. Meehan, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan, K. Gavin, P. Gately, O. Hennelly, J. Galvin (0-1), T. Meehan, B. Laffey, M. Killilea (0-1), M. Meehan (1-2, 0-2 frees), N. Meehan (0-2, 0-1free), A. Keighery.
Subs; D. Cunniffe for Laffey (42 mins), K. Killilea for Keighery (47 mins).
The All-Ireland semi-final against the Derry and Ulster Club Champions, The Loup was played in Markievicz Park, Sligo on Sunday February 22nd 2004.
The Loup had on their way conquered Ballinderry (Derry), Bryansford (Down), Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh), St. Galls of Antrim and were firm favourites going into the tie. It was a bitterly cold day and in the end The Loup and our supporters shivered in Sligo. The Loup were aided by the stiff breeze in the first half but only led by three points at half time, 0-8 to 0-5.
The throw in (in the second half) was caught cleanly by Tomás Meehan who turned, kicked a long ball to his brother Michael and he found the net. This was a tonic start for Caltra and had a shell shock effect on The Loup. Caltra dominated the second half and added 2-4 to their half time tally while The Loup only managed a solitary point from a free. Caltra’s second goal was scored by Noel Meehan to clinch the tie. This was an all-round team performance but Tom Meehan, whose experience all year was invaluable, had his finest hour and he was ably assisted by his brothers Declan, Noel and Michael, Damien Cunniffe, Kevin Gavin and Jarlath Murray. The result was a decisive and comprehensive six point win with a final score: 2 - 9 to 0 - 9
Caltra had to change their jerseys in the Connacht final against Curry and again against The Loup due to a clash of colours in each game, Jim Carney in The Tuam Herald had the splendid headline “Up Caltra! They’re off to Dublin in the green, in the green”. Yes, we had qualified for the All-Ireland club final on St. Patricks Day and it was an occasion to be enjoyed.
The night before The Loup match the club’s juvenile ballad group were winners in the All-Ireland final and this was a good omen for the footballers.
Caltra 2-9 The Loup 0-9
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; K. Kilroy, J. Murray, E. Meehan, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan, K. Gavin, O. Kelly, T. Meehan, D. Cunniffe, B. Laffey, J. Galvin, M. Killilea, M. Meehan (1-3, 0-3 frees), N. Meehan (1-5, 0-3 frees), S. Hogan (0-1).
Subs; C. Kilroy for Galvin (57 mins), O. Hennelly for Laffey (59 mins), P. Gately for Kelly (60 mins), K. Killilea for Hogan (61 mins), D. Costello for E. Meehan (61 mins).
Win, lose or draw the attitude of players, mentors and supporters was that all were going to enjoy the occasion. The previous September, twelve months, Caltra competed in the Kilmacud All-Ireland sevens competition and gave a good account of themselves and had seen a number of the An Ghaeltacht players in action and deep inside knew that despite their household names they were beatable. The messages to the players in the build up to the final was of course “enjoy the occasion” but “finals are for winning” and a determined Caltra side were not going to leave this one behind them.
The planning was meticulous, as indeed it was for all the games. Training times and pitches were switched to avoid crowds at training and to focus on another game in the club championship. The media all year wanted to get a photograph of the six Meehans and the lads to their credit resisted by such comments as, “We will give you the chance on March 18th. This is not about the Meehans but about a panel of 34 players from Caltra.” The night before the final one photographer demanded a photograph of the Meehan lads but it was not possible as Declan had stayed away and went swimming instead. In a radio interview before the final Declan Meehan was asked how it felt to be playing with five other brothers and Declan retorted, “I have 33 other brothers on this Caltra panel”. The players were distanced from the hype of excitement, emotion and media and this was to help them to prepare physically and mentally for what many in the media claimed was a mountain to climb for the Caltra footballers.
The day had arrived and Croke Park Officials, totally underestimating the possible attendance of 38,000, only had the turnstiles on the Hogan Stand side of the ground open. Supporters for the All-Ireland Club Hurling Final of Dunloy (Antrim) and Newtownshandrum (Cork) had missed part of their game but were finally relieved of their agony and frustration when the gates of the Canal End and Cusack Stand were opened wide for some 6,000 supporters to gain entry, including some Caltra fans.
Many of the same fans had travelled to the capital the night before while the team slept in their own beds for the night and travelled by bus to Athlone and boarded a special carriage on the train. They were whisked away from Hueston Station to a North Dublin School for the warm up before the game and a light lunch and then made their way to Croke Park with a Garda escort. The team and officials arrived in Croke Park in a relaxed mood.
Two weeks earlier the party of players and management travelled to Croke Park for a kick around and this had helped them all to approach the final in a relaxed frame of mind. The “Doc” said his last few words and the team were welcomed on to Croke Park with shouts of joy and a sea of green and white.
Both sides were slow to settle and had wides before Declan Meehan went on one of his many solo runs on the day and kicked a beautiful point from the Cusack Stand side. This score settled the team, and an all round team performance followed.
While Michael Meehan was named man of the match, it was a super all-round performance by Caltra. Kevin Kilroy was outstanding in goal, while Jarlath Murray, Enda Meehan and Brian Kilroy did what was asked of them. Kevin Gavin and Oisin Kelly were superb, while Declan Meehan caused huge problems to the Kerry side. Repeatedly blocking and chasing, it was his darting runs out of defence and his quality delivery to the forwards that pressurised the Kerry rearguard, John Galvin came to assist Tomás Meehan and Damien Cunniffe as he excelled in the second half. Brian Laffey, Matthew Killilea, and Shane Hogan all played their part in attack, but it was Noel and Michael Meehan who were once again the target players, scoring 11 points between them.
The relief of the final whistle as the Kerry Club side pressed for another score was unbelievable and supporters rushed on to the hallowed turf of Croke Park to hug, kiss and clap their heroes. Migrants from the Parish from all parts of Ireland, emigrants who travelled from the U.S.A., England and other foreign lands were there in numbers as well as people from Caltra and indeed surrounding parishes. The winning feeling and excitement was very special for all. The Andy Merrigan Cup was presented to Captain Noel Meehan as Pronsias Kitt and Oliver Hennelly sang the “Flower of Caltra” while the crowd in green and white enjoyed a very special few moments of success.
Points by Declan Meehan 0-1,Michael Meehan 0-2 (one from 45 yards), Noel Meehan 0-3 and Shane Hogan 0-1 left the Caltra side trailing by 0-8 to 0-7 at half time. Goal chances had arisen in the first half for Hogan and Galvin and things looked good for Caltra. The second half will long be remembered by Caltra followers for Declan Meehan’s runs along the Hogan Stand side of the Park and two superb long range frees by his brother Michael.
The scorers of the second half were Noel Meehan 0-2 and Michael Meehan 4.
Beidh cuimhne go deo ar an lá seo. Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na sgolb.
Caltra 0-13 An Ghaeltacht 0-12
The players on the day were as follows:
Caltra; K. Kilroy, J. Murray, E. Meehan, B. Kilroy, D. Meehan (0-1), K. Gavin, O. Kelly,T. Meehan, D. Cunniffe, B. Laffey, J. Galvin, M. Killilea, M. Meehan(0-6 four frees and one 45), N. Meehan(capt. 0-5 three frees), S. Hogan (0-1).
Subs; C. Kilroy for B. Laffey (49mins), O. Hennelly for S. Hogan (58mins).
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