Injury-time saga fails to halt st Mary's
St Mary's 2-5 Rathnew 0-10
Rathnew were sensationally knocked off their perch in Aughrim yesterday as amalgamated team St Mary's, managed by Karl O'Dwyer, carved out a shock victory in a thrilling decider.
St Mary's, formed only this year from Shillelagh and Coolkenno, were not really expected to be a match for the defending champions, who were bidding for three titles in a row from their 14th county decider in the last 16 years, having lost only two of them.
But Rathnew were left chasing the game from the 10th minute as a result of St Mary's corner-forward Paddy Byrne hammering home two first-half goals to set his team up for a shock triumph.
In a 43-minute second half, in which they had the breeze at their backs, Rathnew threw everything at the first-timers, but the combination of Coolkenno and Shillelagh players held their nerve under pressure to carve out victory by this wafer-thin margin.
Close on 4,000 people packed into Aughrim county ground to see the Saints lay the foundations for victory in the opening 30 minutes, with Byrne's goal strikes providing them with a 2-3 to 0-3 cushion at the break after Ireland star Leighton Glynn had given Rathnew an early lead with a point after 10 minutes.
It was the O'Dwyer-trained combination from south Wicklow who were making most of the running with the wind at their backs in the first half as Eamonn Rossiter, David Cullen, Paddy Dalton, Keith and Paddy Byrne ran at their vastly more experienced opponents.
On 13 minutes, Paddy Byrne struck for the first killer blow when he poked to the net from a long delivery from Don Jackman, who had just returned to the side after injury.
Eleven minutes later the Byrne brothers worked the oracle again, with Keith the provider and Paddy the finisher as he punched to the net from the edge of the small square.
Rathnew, who no doubt drew on their vast county championship final experience in the dressing-room at half-time, began their fightback immediately after the restart.
Glynn, just back from the International Rules victory in Australia earlier in the week, drilled over three points. Tommy Gill chipped in with two more and the champions had cut the margin to just one point at the end of the third quarter, 0-8 to 2-3.
Shortly after the start of the second half, St Mary's suffered another cruel blow as their No 15, David Cullen, who was a strong contender for Man of the Match up to that point, had to be stretchered off.
Paddy Byrne eased the pressure on St Mary's with a point from a free, but the omens were still inclined to favour Rathnew as Mark Doyle slotted over from a '45'.
Declan Nolan put St Mary's two points ahead in the 59th minute, but, at that stage, there were seven minutes of injury-time to be added and everything was still in the balance.
Rathnew midfielder James Stafford had stepped up his game in the second half and was making an impact, but then he and Keith Byrne from St Mary's were sent off on straight red cards following an off-the-ball incident in the third minute of injury-time.
Glynn narrowed the gap to a point follwing the incident, but as the clock ticked on for an agonising 13 minutes of added time, St Mary's just refused to buckle.
Scorers -- St Mary's: P Byrne (2-2), E Rossiter (0-1), K Byrne (0-1), D Nolan (0-1). Rathnew: L Glynn (0-5), T Gill (0-4), M Doyle (0-1).
St Mary's -- J Corcoran; F Simpson, C Rossiter, S Walker; D Doyle, N Murphy, D Nolan; D Jackman, J Cushe; B Rossiter, P Dalton, D Cullen; P Byrne, E Rossiter, K Byrne. Subs: G Murphy for D Cullen.
Rathnew -- J Hollingsworth; A Clarke, D Power, P Merrigan; S Byrne, S Canavan, P Ellis; J Stafford, S Kavanagh; E Glynn, N Mernagh, E Doyle; T Gill, M Doyle, L Glynn. Subs: B Mernagh for E Doyle, C Healy for S Byrne.
Ref -- K Kenny (Tinahely).