Rathnew survive Newtown scare
RATHNEW NEWTOWN 2-13 2-9
RATHNEW survived a major scare against Damien Gilligan’s in-form Newtown side as last year’s championship runners-up kicked their campaign off with a four-point victory in Group 1 of the Senior Football Championship in front of a big crowd in Ashford on Tuesday of last week.
Rathnew scored 1-6 without reply in the second half of this game as they fought back five points down inside five minutes of the half.
After a strong league campaign from Newtown, Harry Murphy’s side knew what they were up against and from the start this form was evident as midfielder Mark Fitzsimons opened the scoring with a point after 15 seconds.
The clash began with a quick pace, in typical Senior football championship fashion.
Both sides were pressing high, particularly the Rathnew defence as Newtown’s forwards crowded the midfield forcing their opponents defence further forward, leaving Dean Odlum alone up top.
Sean Gregory picked up the ball a lot early on and dashed towards goal using his rapid side stepping.
Eddie Doyle was pulling the strings early on for Rathnew as he seemed to have been given a free role for his side to try and utilise any gaps left by their opposition.
Doyle and Nicky Mernagh pointed for their side before Newtown were awarded a penalty in the sixth minute.
Rathnew full-back Ross O’Brien took down Declan Doyle just inside the box as he attempted to charge towards goal.
Dean Odlum placed the ball on the spot and stuck the ball into the bottom left corner to give his side a two-point lead.
Newtown would have been thrilled with their start against such a heavyweight as they seemed to have been relishing the fight as underdogs.
Robert Greenan was given the job to man-mark the legendary Leighton Glynn as Rathnew struggled to get their big names into the game, such as Glynn, James Stafford and Eddie Doyle.
Despite this Rathnew did pull it back to a one-point deficit as Mernagh pointed his second and Glynn scored a free.
Ten minutes after their goal, Newtown netted again. This time a cracking finish from Mark Fitzsimons into the top left stanchion, leaving Peter Dignam in the Rathnew goal stranded.
Worrying for Harry Murphy that his side conceded two goals so early in the game, as it became clear that they had a dogfight on their hands.
Shane Mooney added a magnificent score to stretch the lead out to five, and a real shock looked to have been on the cards. Rathnew were really struggling to get into the game midway through the half as they were making unnecessary mistakes in the middle of the park leading to Newtown causing havoc on the break with their pacey young forwards.
Both outfits were very fired up for the game with rough challenges going in left, right and centre.
The Rathnew contingent were getting frustrated with the fouls their side were committing whereas the Newtown fans were aggrieved by the tackles being committed on their side as referee Noel Kinsella had a tricky job on his hands calming the game down.
Rathnew were awarded their own spot-kick seven minutes before the interval as Nicky Mernagh attempted a slalom like run past Glen Carty but the defender pulled him to the floor and Kinsella pointed to the spot. Leighton Glynn took the kick and slotted the ball down the keeper’s left.
Hustling and hassling from both sides continued all over the pitch during the cagey affair as both teams had to fight for every breaking ball.
Within three minutes of the penalty the scores were level, as Eddie Doyle and James Stafford floated points over the bar to quickly turn around Newtown’s five-point lead, the scores now 2-3 to 1-6.
Stafford was growing into the game and his physical prowess was coming to the fore as his strength in the air was becoming clear for everyone to see.
Newtown showed terrific mental strength in the closing minutes of the half to not collapse after Rathnew’s fightback, as they went into half-time with a three-point advantage after two frees from Ross Davis and a Neil Martin left-footer.
The sides came back out for half-time and again Rathnew were quite slow off the mark, with Newtown finding it too easy to get from back to front.
Two more frees from Davis restored their five-point lead, but this was the end of Newtown’s scoring until the final minute of the game as Rathnew began their resurgence.
Rathnew did begin the half however with some poor wides and very little communication in the centre of the park, to the frustration of their supporters.
Substitute Graham Merrigan pointed twice to give his side a much-needed lift. Midway through the half, Jack Healy had a huge goal chance.
A knock down by James Stafford fell to Healy but his shot was superbly saved at point-blank range by Ken Turner.
Stafford was pushed forward to win these high balls played in by the likes of Glynn and JT Hayden and this brought their side success. Eddie Doyle and Danny Staunton reduced the deficit to one as Newtown were hanging by a thread.
Newtown half-back Shane Mooney was cleaning up a lot of loose balls when Rathnew seemed to have manufactured openings, but he couldn’t help his side get forward themselves.
Leighton Glynn curled a beautiful score over the bar to level the game, although Rathnew’s 12 wides proved that they should have been leading by now.
The Rathnew fans were rallying their troops as they took the lead for the first time since the fifth minute of the encounter as Mark Doyle pointed his first of the game and his side’s sixth successive point.
Newtown seemed to have been dead and buried before James Stafford finished the game off as he tapped home from close range.
Glynn floated a high ball up towards Stafford, who knocked it down, turned but his first effort was saved by the feet of Ken Turner but the Rathnew man was quickest to react to tap the ball in.
In the final moments of the game, Rathnew’s Graham Merrigan was sent off for striking an opponent off the ball but in the end, this didn’t affect the game as Rathnew sealed a four-point victory.
Newtown will take a lot of positives out of this game and will certainly cause trouble for any side that they’ll face in this year’s championship.
They will face Tinahely next time out whereas Rathnew face a tough test as they come up against rivals AGB.
Scorers - Rathnew: Leighton Glynn 1-2 (1f); James Stafford 1-1; Eddie Doyle 0-3 (1f); Nicky Mernagh 0-2; Graham Merrigan 0-2; Mark Doyle 0-2 (1f); Danny Staunton 0-1.
Newtown: Ross Davis 0-5 (5f); Mark Fitzsimons 1-1; Dean Odlum 1-0; Declan Doyle 0-1; Shane Mooney 0-1; Neil Martin 0-1.
James Gregan on the ball for Carnew Emmets against Kilcoole.
Brendan McCrea of Carnew takes aim.