Byrne's late leveller keeps St. Mary's in the title race
Normally Rathnew would have started hot favourites for this one but once the news leaked that a late appeal for clemency on Thursday night had failed and that they would be short of at least three players, including heir great on-field leader James Stafford then their chances survival were greatly reduced. But survive they did - thanks mainly to the wiles of great veteran Tommy Gill.
In the circumstances the St Mary's, the group team drawn from Coolkenno and Shillelagh will scarcely ever get a better chance of making it through to another final. On their overall display they were fortunate enough to earn a draw and get another bite at the cherry.
St Mary's got off to a good start with a good point by David Cullen inside a minute but then a long delay, caused by an injury to a Rathnew player appeared to knock the group team out of their stride and it was veteran Tommy Gill that took over the show.
It was young midfielder Steward Murphy that opened the Rathnew account with a point in the 5th minute but then Gill took over and lands two points in the first quarter and with Mark Doyle also landing a point Rathnew stretched into a good lead.
It was 0-5 to 0-1 at the end of the first quarter. However, the combined efforts on Paddy Dalton, who had started in the half back line, probably to cut off the supply to Gill, and Don Jackman finally got the Mary's back on track.
Three points by Don Jackman , the first in the 20th minute and the last in injury time changed the picture some -what and left the Half time score line reading - Rathnew 0-7; St Mary's 0-4. Rathnew's other point in that half was scored by Leighton Glynn.
The second half developed into a great battle as the group side narrowed the gap; again it was David Cullen, who probably had his best game ever in the St Mary's jersey that opened the scoring with a point in the 2nd minute.
Gill cancelled that one out with a lovely point in the 5th minute and when Nicky Mernagh stretched the Rathnew lead with a point Marys had an even steeper hill to climb.
Eamonn Rossiter and Leighton Glynn exchanged points; Paddy Byrne had his first point of the match but that was cancelled out again by Gill and at the end of the third quarter the score stood at 0-11 to 0-8.. All now to play for.
The Byrne brothers began to make their presence felt; Paddy pointed a free from the right while Ciaran sent over a very difficult one from the left. Only s point between the sides but there was only five minutes left in the hour when Eamonn Rossiter brought the sides level.
The football may not have been the greatest but at that stage you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Even then there was one last kick left in Tommy Gill as he edged Rathnew back in front again after Mark Doyle had won a difficult enough free in the 27th minute.
There was less than a minute in the game when Eamonn Rossiter won another free and the ice-cool Ciaran Byrne put it between the posts to draw the game. In fact the least known, but often the most effective of the four Byrne brothers had one half chance to win the game for the Mary's.
They won a free that would have required a 'Cluxton' to put it over.
It was just outside Ciaran's range and his brave effort fell well short. Rathnew must have heaved a mighty sigh of relief when Garrett Whelan blew for full-time. So Baltinglass will have to wait a while longer before they know who their final opponents will be
It was a result that did not go down well with the fixtures people. With Coolkenno due to play a semi-final in the IFC and Rathnew having players like the Glynn brothers and John Manley tied up with the Glenealy hurling team there will be more than one competition effected by the delay.
Scorers St Mary's: Don Jackman and Eamonn Rossiter 0-3 each; Paddy Byrne, Ciaran Byrne and David Cullen 0-2 each.
Rathnew: Tommy Gill 0-7; Leighton Glynn 0-2; Steward Murphy, Mark Doyle and Nicky Mernagh 0-1 each.