DOWN TO THE WIRE!

Mer­nagh magic tops off su­perb Rath­new rally

Bray People - - SPORT - DANIEL GOR­MAN At Sham­rock Park, Rath­new PHO­TOS: BAR­BARA FLYNN

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.

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