Wicklow People - - SPORT - RICHARD CLUNE

“IT wasn’t a sur­prise to us”, was how man­ager Harry Mur­phy re­acted to the win and the no­tion that this was any kind of shock.

“The lads felt they’d give [Vin­cent’s] a run. We heard dur­ing the week Con­nolly mightn’t be play­ing. We got a mas­sive blow last night when Nicky Mer­nagh went into hos­pi­tal. Young Danny Staunton came in today and played re­ally well, bat­tled hard and did his job that we asked him to do.

“I thought Damien Power was ex­cel­lent on Con­nolly. Bet­ter foot­ballers have been de­stroyed by Con­nolly but in far­ness Damien had a horse of a game on him.

“Jamie Snell, Paul Mer­ri­gan, again our full back line kept us in the game at times. Peter made a great save in the first half. But you need that lit­tle bit of luck, if you don’t get a bit of luck you won’t win any­thing.

“So we got a nice slice of luck but then in the sec­ond half that wasn’t luck, we were the bet­ter side and Leighton ran the whole show.”

It wasn’t the plan for Power to shadow Con­nolly but when the Dublin star went into full for­ward at the start of the match Power picked him up and stayed with him when he went out the field.

“We were ex­pect­ing Con­nolly to play cen­tre for­ward and that would have been Ross O’Brien on him but they put him in full for­ward and then he went out the field and they left two men inside. No mat­ter man around the mid­dle than Power, let him loose!”

Los­ing Nicky Mer­nagh less than 24 hours be­fore the match wasn’t ideal but that didn’t stop the other play­ers from step­ping up and de­liv­er­ing on the day.

“It was a big blow. But thanks be to God Danny came in and did a job for him. Gra­ham Mer­ri­gan ex­cel­lent today.

“No­body let us down. Bruiser did as much as he could for as long he could. The old win­ter foot­ball suits him, slows ev­ery­thing down to his pace!”

There have been fa­mous vic­to­ries over the years for Wick­low club teams and this surely ranks up near the top.

“You’ve got this, Na Fianna [2001 Le­in­ster fi­nal], we had a brilliant win over UCD one year as well. It’s al­ways great to get a win over the Dubs, they’re the bench­mark. We’re over the moon.

“For those lads down in the dress­ing room and the sup­port­ers, it’s mag­nif­i­cent. It’s brilliant. I’m proud as punch.”

Rath­new cap­tain Leighton Glynn re­acted to the win after­wards and echoed his man­ager’s be­lief that they could win.

“I’m de­lighted, and still feel a bit of eu­pho­ria to get the win. We be­lieved for the last cou­ple of weeks that we could trouble Vin­cent’s, no one else prob­a­bly be­lieved it, but we worked hard. I sup­pose we got a few lucky breaks, if you want to say lucky, but we earned them and kept on the front foot.

“Vin­cent’s strug­gled at times and gave us a bit of ex­tra be­lief go­ing into the last ten min­utes. When we got the goal there was only one win­ner.”

He took con­trol of the game in the fi­nal quar­ter when Rath­new outscored St Vin­cent’s 1-03 to no score. What was go­ing through his mind?

“Not to panic. We knew Vin­cent’s had a good de­fen­sive set up and at that stage of the game when your legs are get­ting tired you just want to keep ball around the half back line and mid­field and cre­ate an open­ing for one of your run­ners com­ing through. We’ve got good lads with Power, Ross O’Brien and Jamie who were able to get through gaps.

“My job was just to hold the ball up, I thought was cre­ate a bit of space and re­lease a cou­ple of the lads. It just worked a treat for us.

“They strug­gled even to come out be­cause of their de­fen­sive struc­ture. Diar­muid Con­nolly wasn’t near our goal which we were happy about and Ger Bren­nan had been taken off at that stage so maybe they were a lit­tle bit in panic mode.

“Look, we’re de­lighted but we’re not that sur­prised. We knew we could put it up to them. I’m not be­ing cocky or any­thing, we just knew we could do that be­cause we got a good look at them in the semi-fi­nal and the fi­nal.”

No­body gave Rath­new a chance, where did the be­lief that they could beat the pre­sump­tive Le­in­ster cham­pi­ons come from?

“No­body gave us a chance out­side of our dress­ing room, prob­a­bly a few in the vil­lage didn’t give us a chance. I sup­pose it comes from win­ning so much in Wick­low, it’s hard not to carry that be­lief. You wouldn’t just dump that be­lief be­cause you’re play­ing a team from out­side of Wick­low. You would carry that with you.

“We have a lot of ex­pe­ri­enced lads who would have played in­ter county foot­ball, we have young lads who are com­ing through who prob­a­bly out of their four or five years with the club would have only lost one cham­pi­onship.

“With win­ning comes be­lief and it doesn’t mat­ter who you’re play­ing, if you have be­lief you have a chance.”

Fresh from scor­ing 1-02 to beat St Vin­cent’s James Stafford looked to down­play his role in one of the big­gest shocks of the year.

“If it wasn’t me it could have been Leighton or any­one else, it was just right place right time. We’re not go­ing to get car­ried away, we’ve won noth­ing yet.

“We have an­other game here in two weeks and we could eas­ily get brought back down to earth fairly quickly.”

Rath­new man­ager Harry Mur­phy dur­ing the AIB Le­in­ster GAA Foot­ball Se­nior Club Cham­pi­onship quar­ter-fi­nal match be­tween Rath­new and St Vin­cent’s at Joule Park in Aughrim.

Rath­new’s Mark Doyle puts pres­sure on St Vin­cent’s goal­keeper Michael Sav­age dur­ing the Le­in­ster Se­nior Club foot­ball cham­pi­onship game in Joule Park, Aughrim.

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