Midfield will be key to winning this final
MIDFIELD is where this game could well be won and lost on Sunday afternoon. When assessing a game of such huge importance it would be negligent to bypass the battles between James Stafford and Dean Healy and Theo Smyth and John Crowe.
The St Pat’s captain will be unleashed on James Stafford in a bid to curb his normally huge influence on a game. Casey O’Brien will not want the Rathnew captain plucking balls out of the Aughrim sky on Sunday, or if he does catch them, O’Brien won’t want him offloading those 50-yard missiles in front of Mark Doyle and Leighton Glynn, so Healy has to be the man for that job.
As well as trying to limit Stafford’s game, Healy will be only too keen to open up his own shoulders and drive forward into Village territory at every opportunity which will give Stafford plenty to think about while facing the wrong direction.
Of course, curtailing James Stafford is easier said than done and Dean Healy will have his work cut out over the course of the 60 minutes of this game.
John Crowe will be charged with staying with the mobile Theo Smyth and with driving forward where possible. Crowe and Conor Ffrench seem to have a very positive partnership and Casey O’Brien will hope that these two pivotal players can experience a great day in Joule Park on Sunday.
Harry Murphy will trust in his midfield partnership and with Jody Merrigan and Nicky Mernagh never far away from the trenches the Rathnew boss will feel that his side will emerge as winners from the midfield battle come Sunday evening.
Is it fair to say that Rathnew have a stronger full-back line on paper than that of their close neighbours? Possibly. Damien Power’s departure from the field with an injury in the semi-final will be a major concern to the Rathnew faithful but it is expected that the Village full-back will start on Sunday and will be faced with the task of minding Tommy Kelly. That’s going to be one of the key battles of the day and could be worth the admission price alone.
The problem with saying that the Villagers have a stronger full-back line is that you have to suggest that the Pat’s full-forward line might pose an equal if not slightly bigger threat than that of the Rathnew attack.
Stephen Duffy is having an exceptional year with his roaming role and his pinging of deliciously accurate passes through the heart of every defence he meets. It wouldn’t surprise anybody to see JT Moorehouse charged with accompanying Duffy on his tour of Joule Park Aughrim given the responsibility he was afforded in keeping tabs on AGB’s Darragh Fitzgerald in the semi-final.
Throw the seasoned Paul Earls into the mix and you have a heady combination that can hurt any defence but in Jamie Snell and Paul Merrigan Rathnew have two tight-marking, competent and fast defenders.
Changes on either team are likely. Will Harry Murphy introduce Warren Kavanagh or Graham Merrigan to the fray? Wil the feverish and energetic Danny Staunton be retained in the half-forward line. He has done nothing to suggest he doesn’t deserve the start.
Who does Casey O’Brien get to mark Nicky Mernagh? The roaming Rathnew half-forward had an immense second half for the Village and this could be the perfect job for Simon Bouchier. O’Brien will not want to unhitch Conor Ffrench from the centre back role given his superb performances to date and his battle with Jody Merrigan is going to be one to savour. Will the height difference be a factor or will Ffrench’s energy and strength give him the advantage in this most promising of clashes?
Eddie Doyle as always will punish from frees and bring his creativity to open play while John Manley may well be faced with the energetic Paul O’Brien who got on an unhuman amount of ball in the semi-final.
Does Shane Murley pick up Leighton Glynn? Does Leighton Glynn stay inside or roam free? How much truth is contained in the rumours of a groin injury to the dual star who sat out Glenealy’s semi-final victory over St Pat’s on Sunday.
As always, Glynn will play a huge role in the final and he along with Mark Doyle will be charged with tormenting the St Pat’s fullback line.
Ross O’Brien has been a solid soldier for Harry Murphy all season while Paudge McWalter offers stability and confidence to Casey O’Brien’s side.
Another really interesting aspect to the St Pat’s team is that of Ciaran McGettigan. He excelled against a weary Hollywood side and offers pace and accuracy from open play and brings a goal threat to the domain of Peter Dignam. How effective will McGettigan be when faced with the Rathnew rearguard?
Casey O’Brien has Pat’s coming in hungry and focused. There’s been little razzmatazz or build up emerging from the Wicklow town camp. It’s been quiet and steady all championship. St Pat‘s are carrying the hurt of three final defeats into Joule Park Aughrim.
Rathnew are Rathnew. County final days are their natural habitat. They relish the big day and the hunt for Miley and they must start as favourites.
There are so many key battles all over the field that to predict a winner from this game would be dangerous in the extreme.
A draw wouldn’t surprise anyone, but given their record and their talent, the Miley could well be returning in the Village come Sunday evening.