Rathnew silence the doubters
at Joule Park, Aughrim
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