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2001-Heatbreak for Caulry

Heartbreak for Caulry

Caulry will not look back on 2001 with much satisfaction, as they were defeated in the junior, junior ’B’, junior Cup and Division 3 finals. To compound matters, both championship losses occurred after replays. Team manager John Madden recalls a frustrating 12 months for the Mount Temple outfit. 

A few seconds from the end of last season’s junior football championship decider and Caulry supporters sit tentatively at the edge of their seats. Their side lead 3-8 to 2-10, victory looks likely.

Then Bunbrosna launch a final offensive, the ball breaks to cornerback Conor Newman and within seconds the sides are level. The crowd had barely settled back into their original positions when the final whistle sounds. 

Team manager John Madden had the unenviable task of comforting the players in the dressing room afterwards. “It’s always disappointing to lose a lead in the dying moments, particularly when there’s so much at stake,” he admitted. “But I was still confident of winning the replay. I had great belief in the players.” 

For much of the drawn encounter it looked like Caulry would be reclaiming the intermediate status they lost the previous year. They came out of the traps brilliantly and led 1-2 to 0-0 after five minutes, with corner forward Alan Carroll responsible for raising the green flag. Amazingly, they soon trailed by two points when Bunbrosna slammed home two goals of their own but that lead was short-lived and two Anselem Fitzgerald goals quickly followed by an Aidan Dunning point gave John’s men a 3-7 to 2-5 half-time advantage. 

“It was such an open game of football,” John recalls. “Both attacks were on top and scoring with consummate ease. Our tactic of using Anslem as a target man was working well for us and he had the beating of his marker anytime the ball was played in to him. Unfortunately the ball going in his direction wasn’t as good in the second half so he didn’t influence the game as much as he had been doing in the opening period.” 

Caulry’s scores dried up completely after the resumption and a Ciaran Cunningham point was all they could manage for the entire duration of the second half. Their defence, however, managed to snuff out almost every Bunbrosna attack, with Jody Malynn and Damien Dowd particularly impressive on the right flank. In the end it was left to a Bunbrosna defender to level the game and force an eagerly anticipated replay. 

“I was disappointed with our efforts in the second half,” the manager reveals. “To score a single point in thirty minutes’ football simply isn’t good enough. In fairness to our backs they tightened up considerably after the break but we just never got into our rhythm, we never looked threatening in the second half.” While lacking the opening burst of scoring that the drawn game had provided, the replay between Caulry and Bunbrosna was equally entertaining. Unfortunately for John and his troops they came out second best on the day and lost narrowly by 2-5 to 1-6. Defeat was a bitter pill to swallow but John accepted it graciously, pointing to better days ahead for the Mount Temple outfit. “It’s always heartbreaking to come so far and end up with nothing but I think the players will have learned a lot from the campaign and they’ll come back better for it next year. They know now what they’re capable of and I think next season will be a big one for all involved.” 

John himself knows how it feels to lose in such circumstances. He was the Mayo goalkeeper when they contested the 1996 All-Ireland final, only to lose to Meath after a replay. “In a way the defeat to Bunbrosna was very similar to our All-Ireland final defeat. We were a point up against Meath in the drawn game but they equalised with virtually the last kick of the game. It may have been a bigger stage but it feels the same no matter what the occasion.” 

John’s career was subsequently cut short due to injury and he’s now involved in a managerial capacity.
How does this compare to actually being out there yourself, influencing the game from the pitch? “It’s completely different,” he acknowledges. “You have no control over the match. There are times when you wish you could put on a pair of boots and go out there with the lads. But it has its good points too. I get a great buzz when we win. It’s great when the team plays well, when everything you worked on in training comes together. “In saying that, I have to pay tribute to my fellow selectors Tom Fitzgerald and Tom Seery. Both are great clubmen and were tremendous help to me throughout the year. The whole committee were marvellous.” 

Caulry enjoyed a great season under the watchful eye of the 28-year-old Mayo man and only lost five times throughout the course of the year. These defeats came at the hands of St Malachy’s in the intermediate cup, to St Loman’s and Kilbeggan in the league, to Loughnavalley in the junior Cup final as well as that narrow defeat to Bunbrosna in the junior championship final. “We went 15 games without defeat before that replay, ten of which came in the championship, so that’s a record we can all be proud of.” John’s charges had barely recovered from the disappointment of the defeat to Bunbrosna when they suffered another setback, this time to Kilbeggan Shamrocks in the ACFL Division 3 final. The senior side recorded a comfortable 3-9 to 0-8 victory over Caulry in a moderately one-sided encounter. The club were also subjected to defeat in the replay of the junior ’B’ championship final. Mullingar Shamrocks were the culprits on this occasion, completing a two-in-a-row at the expense of Caulry. “The junior B side can be really proud of what they achieved last season. It was a great achievement just to get to the final and when they got there they gave Mullingar a real run for their money, especially in the drawn game.” 

Damien Killane was Caulry’s saviour when the sides met for the first time in Shandonagh. He soled through the heart of the Mullingar defence with time almost up and delivered the perfect finish to level the game. Killane’s score forced extra-time which was barely minutes old when substitute Benny Noone reacted cleverly to steer the ball into the back of the net, handing Caulry the advantage for the first time since the early stages of the match. Mullingar responded well and regained the lead at 1-15 to 1-13 with two minutes remaining before an Anslem Fitzgerald point and an Alan Rigney equaliser restored parity and forced a replay. Unfortunately for all concerned Caulry were defeated in the replay and denied the reward their efforts deserved. However disappointing it may have been, John refuses to dwell on the negatives and prefers instead to focus on the positives reaped from two county final appearances. “Look,” he insists, “we may have lost two county finals but at the end of the day our lads will have come on leaps and bounds from those games. It was great for the whole community to get that far, it brought the parish closer together. Believe me, nobody was as disappointed as I was when we lost those replays but what’s the use dwelling on the past? We have to come out next year and make up for those defeats. Every player knows how he felt after those games. They shouldn’t need any motivation.” 

John is also excited at the prospect of some of the club’s young stars making an impact next season.
“The club won under-16 honours two years ago and some of those lads have already broken through to the junior team. The club has a thriving underage section which is vital for any club who want to be successful at adult level.” 

So what does next season hold for Caulry? “I hope we can put last year’s disappointments behind us and win the junior championship,” John confirms. “It’s the least the players deserve. And I’m confident that they can do it.”