Seagulls see off Dundalk to go seventh in league
Doyle and Mernagh cause absolute havoc
IF RATHNEW play with the confidence and the class that they did with last Friday evening against Arklow Town FC in the first of the weekend's Wicklow Cup semi-finals then their fellow villagers better have a serious plan in place for the final.
The carnivorous hunger the Rathnew men showed on and off the ball was very impressive and the pace and ferocity of their play was a pleasure to watch and some may say that Arklow Town FC didn't turn up, but in this frame of mind and in the form shown on Friday evening, it was hard to imagine them being stopped by anything in the Wicklow League.
First of all you had the dynamic duo of Nicky Mernagh and Mark Doyle up front; an absolutely lethal combination. Doyle, goal poacher, tormenter, bullish, determined, every time he touched the ball the Arklow defence seemed to shake at the knees.
Mernagh, a workhorse, a pure engine, 16-valve, hundreds of horsepower, twin exhaust, you name it, you want a hot rod, you ask for Nicky Mernagh, he's your man.
It took Rathnew all of 17 minutes to grab their opener and Mark Doyle's first of his four goals but from the first minute they looked like they were going to run riot.
Feverish in the tackle, relentless in the chasing and harassing, dominating in defence, led in no small way by a human concrete block in the form of Jay Devlin, holy sweet divine, this guy was just unstoppable on Friday evening in Kilcashel.
Just before kick off he was sucking the life out of a cigarette on the sideline, at half time he petrified the guts out of another cancer stick, sending billow- ing clouds of smoke into the hazy air, and for the 90 odd minutes he commanded an unforgiving defence, save for a period just before half time when Arklow actually managed to play some football at their feet and nab a really nice goal, and he cleared, no cleared is too soft a word to use, he scattered and scutched ball after ball after ball high up into the trees on the river side of the lovely pitch in Avoca.
The poor birds up in those trees must have thought they were under attack from U.S drones such was the amount of balls Devlin hacked up into the trees over the course of the 90 minutes.
And Arklow Town, what can you say? They were completely caught off guard by the sheer appetite of the Rathnew men. They had no answer, and they offered several solutions and introduced substitutes but there was just no halting the march of the Villagers.
Talk on the sidelines was that Arklow keeper Philip Gleeson had stood in goals due to the absence of a bonafide shot stopper but Gleeson tried hard and, while he might have been out of position for one or two, he did his very best.
His first real moment of concern came in the sixth minute when Nicky Mernagh got his head to a cross from a free to head over the crossbar. Jay Devlin whipped in the free and the Arklow men were screaming for offside but no such call was coming from the referee
Peter Walker tried to find the busy Shane Roche but that man Devlin proved to be the rock that many an Arklow attack would perish on.
The Rathnew plan was simple enough it seemed. Goalkeeper Cathal Moody was to launch his kickouts down on top of Mernagh and Doyle and let that pair of thorns embed themselves into the side of the Arklow Town defence.
On 13 minutes one of Moody's missiles was flicked on by Doyle to Mernagh but the latter was adjudged to be offside.
Moments later Colin Jameson provided Doyle with a beauty of a ball but Arklow had two men shadowing the Rathnew striker and his intentions were fluffed out.
A minute later Mernagh headed on to Doyle but it was just too far but the writing was spray painted all over the proverbial wall, if these boys get the ball where they want it there's going to be damage, and lots of it.
David Jameson passed to Mernagh who had the presence of mind to attempt a bicycle kick but the move came to nothing as Arklow were defending nervously but effectively up to this point.
One of the things the Arklow men were allowing was the long balls to bounce and it was from this situation that Rathnew's first goal came.
Moody's kickout landed, bounced, and Mark Doyle got in behind the defence to flick past the outrushing Gleeson. It was a lovely touch, light, just enough.
Doyle headed to the corner flag to celebrate and then while running back yelled something along the lines of “let's keep going now”.
And keep going they did. An Arklow free was cleared by Chris Gregory who held position and slipped the ball through for Shane Doyle who lofted the ball over Gleeson on 21 minutes.
Nicky Mernagh fed Shane Doyle with a ball moments later but Karl Kirwan did very well at the back for Arklow. But, no matter where the Arklow lads seemed to clear the ball it was coming back in immediately and with bells on it.
Nicky Mernagh passed to Colin Jameson who gave it back and Mernagh's shot was dealt with by Gleeson.
But on they came, relentless. Shane Doyle to Mark Doyle under major pressure from Danny O'Harte, 'Yaboah' holds him off, bears down on goal and lobs Gleeson from the edge of the square. Sublime.
Arklow, to their absolute credit battled on, and were rewarded with a goal of their own after 43 minutes following a short period of dominance by them where they got the ball at their feet and played it around.
Substitute Cormac Hyland found Odie Redmond with a pass and Redmond fired past Moody to give the Arklow lads some hope at the break.
But that hope soon perished as a ripper of a free kick from Mark Doyle stretched the Arklow Town net to make it 4-1 and effectively put this tie to bed.
A sweetly struck penalty by Nicky Mernagh after 28 minutes of the second half pushed the Rathnew men out to 5-1 and they finished this tie with a welldeserved 6-1 victory and a place in the Wicklow Cup final against Rathnew AFC C.
Rathnew AFC A’s Mark ‘Yaboah’ Doyle wheels away to celebrate after his free kick rocketed into the back of the Arklow Town FC net. Photo: Garry O’Neill.
Nicky Mernagh heads this ball towards goal during the Wicklow Cup semi-final against Arklow.