It is better to nearly drown than to nearly be saved. Garrycastle footballers will well understand the meaning of this cliché following their lucky escape against Longford Slashers in Cusack Park last Sunday. Last year’s beaten provincial club champions were expected to clear the first hurdle in this year’s Leinster club campaign with a bit to spare but in the end were glad to have kept their heads above water.
For long periods in last weekend’s encounter Anthony Cunningham’s men struggled to find their rhythm and were left treading water in the dying minutes as Slashers fought hard to gain a draw or perhaps an improbable win.
Indeed the Longford men were thrown a late lifeline with a scoreable free deep in injury time but the heretofore unerring Colin Smith failed to convert and the Westmeath representatives lived to tell the tale.
Not for the first time in his career Dessie Dolan was his side’s lifesaver, scoring 0-8 out of 0-13 over the hour. He was also involved in most of his sides better moves. Aidan Browne also stood out for the eventual winners many of whom failed to live up to their potential.
Both sides were level at 0-4 apiece after 25 minutes when Colin Smith goaled for the Longford men. The Castle responded well with four unanswered points to lead 0-8 to 1-4 at the break. Cunningham’s men kept their noses in front for much of the second half but things looked ominous when the visitors drew level at 0-11. Points from Shane Mulvihill and Dessie Dolan nudged the home side ahead again and despite creating a number of chances, a pointed free from Colin Smith was to be Slashers last score.
In truth Garrycastle could have been further ahead in the closing minutes but a clear-cut goal chance was uncharacteristically squandered by Rory McGowan. On another day it could have proved very costly.
To their credit Garrycastle, despite playing poorly, never panicked and that along with the performance of Dessie Dolan was the main difference between the sides. Slashers panicked and took wrong options when they found themselves two points adrift with time running out and although they halved the deficit they missed the boat when it came to equalizing.
The win keeps Garrycastle in the hunt for a first ever provincial club title. A big improvement all around will be needed however if they are to repeat last year’s feat of receiving the provincial decider. Next up is a quarter-final meeting with Louth champions Mattock Rangers in Cusack Park.