Rath­new si­lence the doubters

Wicklow People (Arklow) - - SPORT - RICHARD CLUNE at Joule Park, Aughrim

BE­ING in­volved in GAA in Wicklow is not the most pleas­ant or re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at times, es­pe­cially when you work in Dublin.

Wicklow peo­ple don’t get a chance to be part of many con­ver­sa­tions on GAA, our opin­ions aren’t taken se­ri­ously, our hopes sneered at, our teams dis­missed.

There are times when we are suc­cess­ful, the qual­i­fier run in 2009, the U-21B hurl­ing cham­pi­onship in 2015 and a few more be­fore, but they are all too in­fre­quent.

Days like Sun­day don’t come around too of­ten for Wicklow peo­ple and the suc­cess of this Rath­new team will live long in the mem­ory of ev­ery­one there.

This suc­cess ob­vi­ously be­longs to the peo­ple of Rath­new but they have lit up the coun­try and for that Wicklow peo­ple should feel an im­mense sense of pride in what they’ve done.

Rath­new de­serve ev­ery Wicklow per­son get­ting be­hind them in two weeks when they wel­come Moore­field in the Le­in­ster semi-fi­nal.

No­body gave Rath­new a chance, and quite rightly too. St Vin­cent’s are lit­tered with for­mer and cur­rent in­ter-county stars. They have won four of the last five Dublin championships. They have been un­beaten in Le­in­ster since 1981.

Well, they were un­beaten un­til Rath­new had their say.

Only the play­ers in­side the Rath­new dress­ing room and their sup­port­ers thought they could do it.

But you don’t talk about Rath­new with­out talk­ing about their be­lief which is strong enough to stop any force of na­ture.

They have all the intangible as­sets – the heart, the courage, the in­sa­tiable will to win – that ev­ery other suc­cess­ful team has along with some of the finest play­ers ever to play foot­ball.

And yet, it is al­most un­be­liev­able that they pulled it off.

How, for ex­am­ple, does Damien Power, who wasn’t ex­pect­ing to mark Diar­muid Con­nolly, barely let the Dublin star get a kick of the ball?

How do they keep the St Vin­cent’s team score­less for the last twenty min­utes of the match?

How do Rath­new go into their big­gest game with­out Jody Mer­ri­gan or man of the match in the county fi­nal Nicky Mer­nagh and still win?

Mer­nagh plans on fac­ing Moore­field and could be bet­ter than ever with­out his ap­pen­dix hold­ing him back!

All of us who didn’t be­lieve must re­pent for our sins and bow down at the al­tar of Harry Mur­phy and his dis­ci­ples.

They rode their luck in the first half it must be said. St Vin­cent’s opened them up on many oc­ca­sions but didn’t con­vert their chances.

Peter Dig­nam made a won­der­ful save from Con­nolly when Power lost him on the only oc­ca­sion.

Gavin Burke cut through like a scythe but dropped his shot into Dig­nam’s grate­ful arms.

Con­nolly got fouled in front of goal but ref­eree David Gough played ad­van­tage and when the five sec­ond ad­van­tage elapsed he didn’t call play back for the free.

St Vin­cent’s seemed like they ex­pected to win and weren’t ready for a Rath­new side in no mood to let them.

Throw in James Stafford ca­su­ally scor­ing 1-02 in the last ten min­utes to win the match and one of the best club teams in the coun­try fell to a team who thrive on do­ing such a thing.

Or per­haps that should be one of the best club teams in the coun­try beat the Dublin cham­pi­ons.

Rath­new started well, cre­at­ing the first chance which Leighton Glynn dragged wide be­fore Mark Doyle got his side off the mark with a free.

They didn’t score for an­other 17 min­utes how­ever as St Vin­cent’s reeled off four points and looked like they would ease away to vic­tory.

Shane Carty al­most scored a goal for the first point be­fore Con­nolly with a free, Gavin Burke and Enda Var­ley kicked a point each to make it four points to one by the fif­teenth minute.

Vin­cent’s missed a cou­ple of chances dur­ing that time but Rath­new were of­fer­ing lit­tle in at­tack to sig­nal any kind of re­vival.

That changed in the 18th minute when Eddie Doyle kicked two in a row, the first a free.

Doyle hasn’t been at his best for the last cou­ple of matches but he had a won­der­ful first half, al­ways hun­gry for the ball.

Stephen Byrne was also in­stru­men­tal to those scores, get­ting fouled for the first and then win­ning the ball in the full for­ward line for the sec­ond.

Mossy Quinn added a 45 for St Vin­cent’s to put two be­tween the teams be­fore Rath­new reeled off three in a row to take the lead.

First Ross O’Brien scored from dis­tance, then fe­ro­cious tack­ling by Mark Doyle and Stafford forced the St Vin­cent’s de­fence to con­cede a free which Doyle con­verted. Glynn won the kick out and kicked Rath­new into the lead.

The teams traded a point be­fore half-time, Byrne get­ting fouled for Rath­new’s free, and Rath­new led by seven points to six at half time. It was a scarcely be­liev­able score line and thoughts be­gan to form that Rath­new could ac­tu­ally pull this off.

Sure not, but if the score line was close with fif­teen min­utes to go Rath­new would back them­selves.

They started the sec­ond half with more than that in mind.

From the throw in Stafford kicked long to Mark Doyle who some­how caught the ball with one hand and dou­bled the lead. Glynn pushed it out to three mo­ments later, a beauty from the stand side that we knew was over long be­fore the um­pire raised his flag with the Rath­new cheers.

Quinn and Eddie Doyle traded frees to leave it at 10 points to 7 by the forty minute mark.

Vin­cent’s started to claw back the lead how­ever with sub­sti­tute Ruairi Trainor and Quinn re­duc­ing it to the min­i­mum.

Then dis­as­ter struck for Rath­new as Vin­cent’s went through their de­fence and Quinn was on hand to palm the ball into the net.

44 min­utes on the clock and two points down, that was it, right?

Rath­new had fought the good fight, gone toe to toe with the Dublin cham­pi­ons and would now bravely bow out, their heads held high.

St Vin­cent’s would kick a few more points and Diar­muid Con­nolly would ref­er­ence the win as kick start­ing their run towards the All-Ire­land fi­nal. That’s how these movies usu­ally play out.

Rath­new hadn’t read the script. En­ter stage left Mr Paul Mer­ri­gan, Mr James Stafford, Mr Theo Smith and Mr Leighton Glynn into their star­ring roles.

Mer­ri­gan made two big plays, first com­ing up the field to kick a point on his left foot four min­utes af­ter Quinn’s goal.

Time ticks away, Rath­new own the ball. Glynn has come back into his half back line to con­duct his or­ches­tra.

He takes pos­ses­sion, holds on to it, waits for a team­mate to make a move. If he loses the ball it’s lights out, Vin­cent’s have a clear run at goal. He’s the calmest man on the field. Vin­cent’s are chas­ing shadows, un­able to get near Rath­new.

Ross O’Brien gets the ball just in­side the 45 and takes a shot which is dropping short but Stafford is on hand to punch it over. 53 min­utes on the clock and the game is level.

Mer­ri­gan makes his sec­ond big play, in­ter­cept­ing a beau­ti­ful Con­nolly ball into the full for­ward line.

Vin­cent’s are spooked. They take a 45 short in­stead of kicking for the posts and the even­tual shot drops into Peter Dig­nam’s grate­ful arms.

Rath­new go up the field, Glynn in­volved all the way. O’Brien takes an­other shot, again it fall short.

This time Stafford doesn’t punch it over, he catches it with his right hand and dis­patches it to the net with his left! Rath­new lead St Vin­cent’s by a goal, 56 min­utes on the clock. This is scarcely be­liev­able.

Vin­cent’s push again, Rath­new re­pel again. Rath­new move the ball for­ward again and Stafford kicks over the in­sur­ance point, there are four points in it and four min­utes of in­jury time.

Rath­new aren’t go­ing to lose. Power hacks a ball away, al­most tak­ing a team­mate’s fin­gers with him.

St Vin­cent’s at­tack down the right hand side, in front of the Rath­new dug out.

Tier­nan Di­a­mond gets the ball but Theo Smith tracks him down and dis­ci­plined tack­ling forces

the Vin­cent’s sub­sti­tute to over carry the ball.

It was the sec­ond time Smith forced some­body to over carry, win­ning a free ear­lier in the half that Eddie Doyle con­verted.

The sec­onds drift by, Vin­cent’s can’t get near the goal posts. They blaze a shot wide and the ref­eree blows the full time whis­tle.

Let this be a les­son for each and ev­ery one of us: never doubt this Rath­new team again.

Scor­ers – Rath­new: James Stafford 1-02; Mark Doyle (3f) 0-04; Eddie Doyle (2f) 0-03; Leighton Glynn 0-02; Paul Mer­ri­gan, Ross O’Brien 0-01 each.

St Vin­cent’s: To­mas Quinn (1 45, 2f) 1-03; Enda Var­ley 0-02; Diar­muid Con­nolly (f), Gavin Burke, Shane Carty, Ruairi Trainor 0-01 each.

RATH­NEW: Peter Dig­nam; Paul Mer­ri­gan, Damien Power, Jamie Snell; War­ren Ka­vanagh, Ross O’Brien, Enan Glynn; James Stafford, Theo Smith; Stephen Byrne, Danny Staunton, Gra­ham Mer­ri­gan; Mark Doyle, Leighton Glynn, Eddie Doyle. Subs: John Man­ley for Danny Staunton (50 mins); Jody Mer­ri­gan for Stephen Byrne (56 mins).

Vin­cent’s: Michael Sav­age; Michael Con­carr, Jar­lath Cur­ley, Craig Wil­son; Fi­achra Breath­nach, Ger Bren­nan, Luke Sheehy; Lor­can Galvin, Daithi Mur­phy; Gavin Burke, Diar­muid Con­nolly, Cor­mac Di­a­mond; Enda Var­ley, Shane Carty, To­mas Quinn. Subs: Ea­monn Fen­nell for Lor­can Galvin (35 mins); Ruairi Trainor for Cor­mac Di­a­mond (40 mins); James McCusker for Ger Bren­nan (43 mins); Joe Feeney for Daithi Mur­phy (50 mins); Tier­nan Di­a­mond for Gavin Burke (60 mins).

An emo­tional James Stafford cel­e­brates the fi­nal whis­tle.

Rath­new’s Stephen Byrne and Ger Bren­nan of St Vin­cent’s com­pete for a high ball.

Rath­new’s Leighton Glynn fends off the chal­lenge of Luke Sheehy. The mo­ment big James Stafford pulls the ball down one-handed and blasts to the St Vin­cent’s net.

Diar­muid Con­nolly of St Vin­cent’s and Rath­new’s Damien Power bat­tle for pos­ses­sion.

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