Castleknock celebrate with the AFL Division 2 trophy last Sunday. Picture: Niall O’Connell

A DRAMATIC late equaliser for Castleknock GAA under floodlights in Somerton last week completed a meteoric rise for the club, as they secured the result they needed against Ballinteer to win the AFL2 title, and secure promotion to AFL1 for 2016.
For the game that secured top-table competition, Castleknock were eight points down with 20 minutes left on the clock, but the Hollywood finish was not to be denied.
After a goal tightened up the game, Castleknock eventually squared things up at 2-11 each through a last minute Ciaran Kilkenny finish, after the county forward out-jumped the Ballinteer defence to knock in a high ball.
The promotion clinching move was as dramatic as finishes come, and one that chairman Niall Tutty described as “fitting, given Ciaran’s our star player and with him having come back from Australia, with taking the ball in the air being such a key part of Aussie rules”.
The club have been promoted almost every season over the last few years, with an incredible rise that Tutty says is down to “having the right players to get through every level, and a sense of ambition in the club that has only grown over the last few years.”
As well as Kilkenny, Dublin and Dublin age-group players Shane Boland, Tom Quinn, Graham Hannigan and Rory Corcoran have starred.
The latest league win sees the club complete an exceptional few years during which consecutive promotions have seen them promoted from AFL8 all the way to Dublin’s top tier. “We always knew we’d make the top level eventually,” Tutty says. “It was more a question of when. This was definitely the hardest tier to get through, as the top of AFL2 is seriously competitive.”
In fact, last year marked a rare stall in Castleknock’s ascent, as they fell just short in their first shot at AFL2 promotion. Tutty thanks a sequence of successful managers, from current man Enda Murphy to former coaches Tom McCormack, Donal Cunningham, Willie Brennan and Fionnan McDonagh.
“We made an AFL2 playoff last year,” Tutty says, “and lost in the semi-final to Lucan. This year, our focus was early wins, as the standard is very challenging, as Clontarf demonstrated by reaching the championship semi-final. We wanted to avoid the play-off route, as it’s such a lottery.”
Castleknock were presented with the AFL2 trophy at their final home game on Sunday but are already putting plans in place for Dublin’s top division, as well as hoping their AHL2 hurling side can secure a similar promotion shortly, after they graduated from intermediate hurling to senior competition recently.
“We’re looking forward to having the likes of Dermot Connolly and the other county players at Somerton next year,” Tutty said. “The first year will be about establishing ourselves. In two or three years, we can start thinking about trophies.”