LEINSTER SENIOR CLUB FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
“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.