DOWN TO THE WIRE!
Mernagh magic tops off superb Rathnew rally
Hyland 14, 35; Nolan 16 RATHNEW AFC A ARKLOW TOWN
S Doyle 8; M Doyle 77, 79; Mernagh 88 4 3 THREE GOALS in 11 sensational minutes catapulted Rathnew AFC A from heartbreak to hysteria.
With 76 minutes on the clock, the Villagers trailed Arklow Town 1-3 and were limping out of the Jim McLaughlin Premier 1 Cup. By the 88th minute, they lead 4-3 and were heading for the final.
Despite taking an eighth minute lead, Rathnew were playing catch up by the 16th and found themselves 1-3 down by the 35th minute.
It was a most uncharacteristic performance from Rathnew until the 77 th minute, when they did something extremely characteristic in remarkable scenes.
Jay Devlin launched a pass forward and Mark Doyle timed his run and header to perfection to reduce the arrears to a single strike.
Two minutes later, Doyle was on hand to level matters after a scramble in the penalty area and from there, what happened next seemed inevitable.
A ball from midfield was nodded on by Shane Doyle and Shamrock Park rose in expectation as Nicky Mernagh raced onto it. He lifted his shot over Arklow goalkeeper William Horsmen and the celebrations started before it had even hit the net. Rathnew knew they’d won, Arklow Town knew they’d been beaten, but they must have been wondering how it had come to pass.
Patient play down Rathnew’s right lead to the opener. Aidan Small cut back to provide an inswinging cross and Shane Doyle ghosted into the penalty area to touch the ball home with his forehead; a header of true finesse.
That lead lasted a whole six minutes. A ball was played through the middle in the direction of the offside Mark Nolan. The striker made no attempt to play the ball, so linesman Carl Doyle correctly didn’t flag and the sleeping Rathnew defence were punished as midfielder Cormac Hyland burst onto the ball and slotted past Cathal Moody to level matters.
Within two, Arklow hit the front. Neat play on the right flank featuring Alan Werder and Karl Kirwan saw Kirwan swing in a cross and Nolan was relatively unchallenged as he rose at the back post to power home a header.
A 26th minute free kick from Mernagh posed the next threat. The striker put real whip and force behind the dead ball attempt and Horsmen was forced to punch it to safety.
Arklow Town were getting plenty of joy from setpieces and one such attack, in the 35th minute, they got a goal. Peter Walker whipped in a corner from the left and Hyland sent a bullet header flying to the net from eight yards.
Rathnew’s strike duo combined to almost reduce the arrears before the break; Mernagh’s centre from the right was greeted by Mark Doyle’s forehead but his effort cleared Horsmen’s crossbar.
The home side’s set-piece specialist came close to pulling a cheeky goal back seven minutes into the second period. There was devilish curl on his 52nd minute corner and Horsmen was extremely panicked as it dropped just over his crossbar.
Jameson’s evening almost came to an end when he took a thumping ball full-on in the face and flopped to the ground. But within two minutes he was back on his feet and within three, he was back on the field.
The hosts continued knocking on the door but it looked like Arklow Town had all the answers. Mernagh fed Shane Doyle who toed the ball through for Mark Doyle, but he had to take the shot first-time on the turn and his weak connection was gathered by Horsmen.
Then the door started to wilt. Jason Devlin got the ball rolling as his outstanding cross allowed Mark Doyle to strider clear of the defence and guide a header to the corner of the net.
A long throw from sub Kenneth Doyle was the source of the equaliser. Doyle’s missile was nodded on by Mernagh and his effort bounced back off the crossbar. Mernagh reacted first and swiped at the rebound only for Horsmen to parry it out. But the ‘keeper’s heroics ended there as Mark Doyle nearly tore a hole in the roof of the net with his thunderous leveller.
And two minutes from the end of normal time, this exhilarating contest was decided. The ball from midfield was delicately helped on by Shane Doyle. Just like Arklow’s first, Mark Doyle was coming back from an offside position but made no attempts to play the ball so Nicky Mernagh was free to latch onto it and help it over the head of Horsmen.
Top Form: Jason Devlin (Rathnew AFC): His prematch Eddie Rockets worked a treat. Must’ve been wearing Superman tights under his kit.
RATHNEW AFC A
1. Cathal Moody, 2. Shane Magee, 3. Colin Jameson, 4. Jason Devlin, 5. David Jameson, 6. Chris Gregory, 7. Shane Doyle, 8. Donal Fitzgerald, 9. Mark Doyle, 10. Nicky Mernagh, 11. Aidan Small. SUBS: Mark O’Sullivan for Fitzgerald (62); Kenneth Doyle for Small (74); B.A. Franey for Mernagh (89).
ARKLOW TOWN FC
1. William Horsmen, 2. Karl Kirwan, 3. Paddy Reid, 4. Danny O’Hart, 5. Philip Gleeson, 6. Peter Walker, 7. Alan Werder, 8. Cormac Hyland, 9. Mark Nolan, 10. Stephen O’Neill, 11. Shane Roche. SUB: Paul Werder for Hyland (H/T). VENUE: Hollymount. Shamrock Park, Rathnew
REFEREE: Paul O’Brien
The Arklow Town side who were defeated by Rathnew in the Premier semi-final.
The Rathnew AFC A team who defeated Arklow Town FC in dramatic fashion last weekend to claim a place in the Jim McLaughlin Premier 1 Cup final.
Rathnew’s Mark Doyle competes with Arklow’s Paddy Reid in Shamrock Park.