BLESSINGTON AND RATHNEW TO CLASH IN COUNTY FINAL
24-PAGE SPORT PULLOUT
FOR so long they’ve watched the county final from afar, but on Sunday the footballers of Blessington will be center stage when they go into battle with Rathnew in the Renault Senior Football Championship final in Joule Park, Aughrim, at 3pm.
It’s the lengthy absence of the Blues from the biggest day of the Wicklow club footballing calendar that makes this clash so intriguing and so very hard to call due to the number of imponderables at play.
How will Barry O’Donovan’s men cope with county final day and all the baggage that comes with it? The noise, the parade, the colour, the sense of occasion, the gravity of it all? It might be easy to talk it away, but it’s a factor and must be dealt with and prepared for by the Blessington players.
Is there a danger that Harry Murphy’s men will underestimate the potential Blessington have to spoil their ambitions of bringing Miley back to the village?
The bookies have decided that Rathnew are very warm favourites at 1/2 while Blessington are slightly more appealing at 7/4 with 13/2 for the draw.
Key factors in those calculations have to be the long absence from the decider for Blessington and the gathering of momentum by the Rathnew men with the defeat of Baltinglass being the latest in a line of very tricky matches for Harry Murphy’s men.
This game is going to be a tough battle. Blessington might have had the ‘easier’ of the two semi-finals but semi-finals have to be won and they did just that. They also outfoxed a talented St Pat’s side previously and that should also be remembered.
There are a bundle of mouth-watering tussles all over the field for this clash.
One of the standout footballers from this year’s championship, Eoin Keogh, will probably look to negate James Stafford’s input into this game in much the same way as he did to Dean Healy. If that collision of manliness occurs then all eyes will be glued to the middle third of the field.
It’s unlikely that Paul McLoughlin will be detailed to mark Leighton Glynn, expect Barry Murphy to be handed that incredibly difficult task. Murphy is an excellent footballer and he will need to be at his best to curb the influence of a wizard like Leighton Glynn.
There’s an incredibly interesting clash on the edge of the Blessington square when Mark Doyle takes up his full-forward role against Stephen Bohan. Doyle has the potential to ruin any team’s day and Bohan will be well aware of the threat of ‘Yaboah’.
Expect a mighty battle between the Blessington half-forward line and the Rathnew half-back line.
Barry O’Donovan’s transformation of his team from earlier in the championship and his deployment of Anthony and Mick McLoughlin in the half-forward line along with the very impressive Michael Nugent has worked a treat for the Blues in their last few games.
However, they now come up against a half-back line of Warren Kavanagh, Ross O’Brien and the workaholic Enan Glynn.
The dominant line in this battleground will hold the the key to victory or defeat for either side.
Another man who has been in superb form this year is Rathnew full-back Damien Power. Minding the house he’s ultra reliable, and if he’s dragged out the field he turns into a football catching machine to compliment the midfield maestros of James Stafford and the hard-working and very capable Theo Smyth.
Power’s tussle with Curtis Geraghty will be one to keep an eye on. If Geraghty can nick a goal or two, Blessington will explode in confidence.
Patrick O’Connor will join Geraghty in the inside line with Kevin Hanlon likely to roam. O’Connor will be faced by the human magnet, Jamie Snell, and this is a battle that will be worth the entrance fee itself.
Rathnew also boast four quality footballers in the shapes of Eddie Doyle, Graham Merrigan, Nicky Mernagh and Jody Merrigan and Blessington will be hard pressed to handle the potential of those players. Doyle can be lethal from the frees, Jody Merrigan can rip you assunder, Mernagh can cut you to shreds and Conor Kenny, Declan Fennessy, Brian Carroll and Kevin John Rogers and Co. will have to be ready for a huge battle.
Expect the reliable Peter Dignam to thwart a goal chance or two and expect Stephen Kitt to play a key role on the line for Blessington.
More importantly, expect a monstrous battle with plenty of shocks and drama along the way.
BrayWanderers manager Harry Kenny who is standing down at the end of the season. Photo: Barbara Flynn