Tuesday 23 October 2018

Murphy saves the day with magic points

Rathnew 0-12 Annacurra 0-12

Annacurra’s Paul McDonald looks for options as Rathnew’s Gary Byrne closes in during the SFC
Annacurra’s Paul McDonald looks for options as Rathnew’s Gary Byrne closes in during the SFC

Brendan Lawrence

Big scores are scored by big players and Gearoid Murphy provided one of the biggest and best scores you're ever likely to see in Joule Park, Aughrim, to earn Annacurra a draw against Rathnew and salvage Damien Gilligan's men's hopes of a quarter-final place in this year's Renault Senior Football championship.

From all of 52 meters the Annacurra full-forward slotted over a beautiful point from a free off the ground with over 32 minutes on Ciaran Fleming's watch.

His sublime strike sent the Annacurra faithful into a state of delirium after they had endured a roller-coaster of emotions ranging from delight to sheer apoplexy as they watched their charges turn in their best performance of the season against a Village side who will know they are fortunate to still be in the championship of 2017.

The big question ahead of the replay this Saturday at 2pm in Joule Park, Aughrim, will be whether Annacurra spurned a glorious chance of victory over Harry Murphy's Rathnew or not? Annacurra turned in a savage performance but that will need to be not only replicated but improved on for Saturday afternoon.

Rathnew didn't play badly but they missed several key chances in this game and they were restricted by the hunger and desire of Annacurra. But the Village side have room for improvement and in Harry Murphy they have a man who will look to counteract Annacurra's strong points in the replay and send Rathnew on to face Trevor Doyle's Kiltegan in the quarter-final.

The recently returned Ross O'Brien and Jamie Snell were not afforded starting positions last weekend but you can expect that to change on Saturday.

Gearoid Murphy was superb from full-forward for Annacurra so he need not be surprised if either he or the capable Shane O'Keeffe is faced by Snell for the replay.

O'Brien could well be wearing the number six jersey and will look to nullify the influence of Frank Clune and release Nicky Mernagh up the field where he might give Martin O'Brien something different to think about at centre-half back with Jody Merrigan's scoring threat utilised in the inside line perhaps. It's dangerous territory trying to second guess Harry Murphy but it's highly likely that there will be changes on the Rathnew team.

There are umpteen talking points from this game but the main one has to be the blowing of a free out for Damien Power just before substitute Ian McDonald fired home a goal past Peter Dignam in the Rathnew goal.

The Annacurra players and supporters almost lost their collective mind when Ciaran Fleming's whistle sounded after Power and Mick O'Brien had contested for a high ball from Gearoid Murphy and opinion is still divided after a video of the incident was uploaded on to the Wicklow People Sport Facebook page.

It appears from the video that both Power and O'Brien only have eyes for the ball, with Power in front and O'Brien approaching from behind.

Both men jump and the bodies collide and Power and O'Brien collapse on to the ground with the breaking ball gathered by McDonald who finishes well.

Ciaran Fleming's whistle has sounded immediately after contact between O'Brien and Power occurs.

His decision is instinctive and immediate and I think every referee in the country is giving a free out in this situation.

And, despite the absence of intent on O'Brien's part, it's the sight of O'Brien's legs colliding with Power's and the Rathnew full-back being taken out of it in the air by the collision that's the major influencing factor for the Baltinglass official in his decision making and you can talk about incidental contact until the cows come home, it's always going to be a free out.

Ciaran Fleming's performance came under severe scrutiny from the supporters at this game with taints and slurs raining down on the Baltinglass official from the first minute to well beyond the final whistle as a number of irate individuals approached Fleming as he headed for the referee's dressing room to unleash a barrage of criticism and insults in his direction.

The location of the referee's dressing room needs to be examined by the County Board and an alternative needs to be found before something very unsavory and unhealthy happens after a game in the future.

A forensic look at Ciaran Fleming's performance would undoubtedly show that the Baltinglass man made errors for both teams but overall, given the toughness of the game and the hostile atmosphere, the man in the middle wasn't the huge influencing factor that many would believe.

Some could argue that David Jameson could have been shown a black card for his pull down on Alan Byrne as the Annacurra man powered towards Peter Dignam's goal in the first half while Annacurra could well have lost a player or two to various cards in the second half if the Baltinglass official had seen the incidents in a different light.

Annacurra must look at their own errors and wasted chances as a major component of this lost opportunity, while Rathnew will also have to acknowledge that a missed goal chance late on and only one of their full-forward line scoring on the night were significant causes for their failure to progress at the first time of asking.

In terms of the Rathnew full-forward line, credit must go to Liam Moules, Vinnie O'Flaherty and Elliot Robinson for their performance on Leighton Glynn, Mark Doyle and Stephen Byrne.

O'Flaherty kept Doyle very quiet but the ball in to the full-forward was not really maximising his talents.

Liam Moules was the first to be faced with containing the incredibly talented Leighton Glynn and he did reasonably well while Elliot Robinson was shipped over for the second half and also performed well with a five-point haul for the Rathnew attacker being acceptable in light of the fact that goal chances were few and far between for the Village men.

At the other end, Damien Power had his work cut out with Gearoid Murphy while Shane O'Keeffe caused all sorts of problems for David Jameson early on and Paul Merrigan later, with Alan Byrne floating out around the field with intent for the most part in this game.

The half-time score of six points apiece at the break was a fairly accurate reflection of the action. Things were tight and tough in those opening 30 minutes with Annacurra starting well through points from the lively O'Keeffe and two Gearoid Murphy frees with Rathnew answering from the boots of Eddie Doyle (two frees) and a lovely Leighton Glynn effort to leave it 0-03 to 0-03 after 18 minutes.

It was very much action up and down the field at this stage with Nicky Mernagh and Frank Clune getting on plenty of ball while Eddie Doyle and Warren Kavanagh for Rathnew and Shane McAllister and Paul McDonald working tirelessly in the engine room for their respective teams.

A Gearoid Murphy effort from play was followed by a tasty Theo Smyth point before Clive Horan swung over a free to return Annacurra to the lead at 0-05 to 0-04.

Keeping control over Leighton Glynn is never an easy task and the dual star popped over two scores in quick succession only for Gearoid Muprhy to pop up and bag a sweet score at the other end to leave it all square at the break.

Harry Murphy sent in Jamie Snell at the break and the tenacious defender took up position at centre-half back with Nick Mernagh pushing higher up the field.

It was Frank Clune who got the scoring underway with a wicked effort off his left five minutes in to the second half not long after Damien Power had clocked Gearoid Murphy as both men chased for a breaking ball with the Rathnew defender picking up a yellow card for his troubles.

Snell and Leighton Glynn recorded wides for Harry Murphy's side before David Jameson rampaged up the field and fired over a lovely point which was quickly followed by a fine Jody Merrigan effort.

Tensions were growing in Aughrim at this stage with Anncurra sensing blood.

Martin O'Brien set off on a trundling run up the field, releasing Mick O'Brien with an agricultural fist pass and O'Brien continued his run and eventually got the ball back and hoisted over a humdnger of a point to level the scores yet again.

Mark Doyle leaped like an ambitious salmon during spawning season to field superbly and Leighton Glynn rewarded his acrobatics with a point. Frank Clune replied with a magic score and it was 0-09 to 0-09 with 15 to go.

Ross O'Brien and Enan Glynn were released from the bench in place of Gary Byrne and David Jameson and a foul on Leighton Glnn gave Eddie Doyle a chance from a free and the Rathnew sharp-shooter proved reassuringly accurate.

Leighton Glynn sold a lovely dummy with his right before switching to his left and dropping a beauty but Gearoid Muprhy cut the lead to one with a pointed 45 ahead of Ian McDonald's introduction.

McDonald would get on the end of Gearoid Murphy's high ball to Mick O'Brien but McDonald's goal would not stand after O'Brien and Power both hit the deck and a free out being awarded.

A wide each was followed by a point from Eddie Doyle and the same man blazed a goal chance wide of Bob Fitzgerald's goalpost moments later and with normal time almost up Rathnew led by two. Had they done enough?

Annacurra win a free on the sideline, stand side after Nicky Mernagh fouled Shane O'Keeffe. Up stepped Gearoid Murphy and he drove over a truly excellent point.

Rathnew attacked but tremendous work by Michael Healy thwarted the danger and away came Annacurra.

Elliot Robinson sent Liam Moules into space on the stand side and the Annacurra corner-back was fouled by Leighton Glynn way out from the Rathnew goal, the Village leading by one.

Who else but Murphy came trotting over, placed the ball, stepped back and jogged up before unleashing a whopper of a shot off the ground which sailed magnificently over Peter Dignam's crossbar to salvage a draw for Annacurra and another chance to book a spot in the county quarter-final against Kiltegan.

The replay will be a huge game. If Annacurra front up with such courage and conviction again and if they can keep the dangerous Rathnew attack from scoring goals we could be in for another belter of a game.

Here's hoping.

Scorers - Rathnew: Leighton Glynn 0-05; Eddie Doyle 0-04 (3f), Theo Smyth 0-01, David Jameson 0-01, Jody Merrigan 0-01.

Annacurra: Gearoid Murphy 0-07 (4f, 1 45), Frank Clune 0-02, Martin O'Brien 0-01, Clive Horan 0-01 (f), Shane O'Keeffe 0-01.

Rathnew: Peter Dignam; David Jameson, Damien Power, Paul Merrigan; Warren Kavanagh, Nicky Mernagh, Gary Byrne; James Stafford, Theo Smyth; Eddie Doyle, Jody Merrigan, Graham Merrigan; Stephen Byrne, Mark Doyle, Leighton Glynn. Subs: Jamie Snell for S Byrne (H/T), Ross O'Brien for G Byrne (45min), Enan Glynn for D Jameson (45min).

Annacurra: Bob Fitzgerald; Liam Moules, Vinny O'Flaherty, Elliot Robinson; Shane McAllister, Martin O'Brien, Paul McDonald; John Hynes, Alan Horan; Clive Horan, Frank Clune, Mick O'Brien; Shane O'Keeffe, Gearoid Murphy, Alan Byrne. Subs: Michael Healy for Alan Horan (13min), Ian McDonald for Clive Horan (25min), Patrick Moules for Mick O'Brien (30min).

Referee: Ciaran Fleming (Baltinglass)

Bray People