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Thursday 19 July 2018

Rathnew's Leinster final hopes dashed

Leinster Senior Club Football Championship semi-final: Moorefield 2-13 Rathnew 2-07

Rathnew’s Graham Merrigan blasts his shot across the Moorefield goal during the Leinster Senior Club football championship semi-final in Joule Park, Aughrim. Picture: Garry O’Neill
Rathnew’s Graham Merrigan blasts his shot across the Moorefield goal during the Leinster Senior Club football championship semi-final in Joule Park, Aughrim. Picture: Garry O’Neill

Brendan Lawrence at Joule Park, Aughrim

Rathnew's magical journey in the Leinster club championship came to an end in Joule Park, Aughrim, last Sunday when they were put to the sword by a very capable Moorefield side.

Harry Murphy's men can have no real complaints with the result with the Kildare champions adapting to the conditions far better than their Wicklow counterparts and managing to avoid errors at key times.

The Moorefield men have talent all over the field, and in Eanna O'Connor they have a star who fired over eight points in all, three of them at the crucial phase following Leighton Glynn's converted penalty when the Moorefield lead had been cut to just two points 15 minutes into the second half.

But what a season it has been for the Village side. Back at the summit of Wicklow club football and with two impressive scalps in Leinster, including the monumental humbling of St Vincent's, there seems to be no end to the genius of Harry Murphy and no bottom to the well of desire and pride and ability of his red and green soldiers.

Rathnew are quite simply out on their own in terms of passion and drive in this county. There is no club to match them. Their hunger is insatiable and that is why it is always a shock when the balloons and the smoke bombs are not drifting magically into the Aughrim sky come county final day. They have created an aura and a fearsome reputation thanks to a totally credible belief in their own abilities and an abundant self-confidence.

The work of the club members on social media and in terms of organising support has been nothing short of fantastic this year. Busloads of young children have been ferried into Joule Park, Aughrim, for games as far back as their championship opener. A huge crowd from the Village descended upon Aughrim for the county semi-final and all games since and it is a wonderful sight to behold to see the red and green colours flying high and to hear the raucous cheer when the final whistle heralds yet another victory for the Village side.

Alas, the county will not get to prepare for a Leinster club final. Video clips online showing the heroics of 2001 when Rathnew triumphed over Na Fianna gave us hope of a similar day out supporting a County Wicklow side in a provincial final but Moorefield have now put paid to that dream.

It certainly didn't look as though that was going to be the case when Rathnew had dragged Moorefield back to level pegging after Niall Hurley Lynch had watched as his shot took a wicked deflection off Paul Merrigan and flew in past a flailing Peter Dignam after just three minutes.

An Eanna O'Connor free suggested that Rathnew were in a bit of bother given that the Kildare champions were playing against the wind into the Rednagh Hill end but credit to Harry Murphy's men they were certainly not going down without a massive fight.

Eddie Doyle (free), a magic Leighton Glynn effort, James Stafford off his left, and two Eddie Doyle points from play drew Rathnew levl at 0-05 to 1-02 with Moorefield's second point coming from the boot of Hurley Lynch who had a fantastic game.

With five minutes to play in the opening half, Rathnew really and truly needed to open up something of a lead but at the key phases in this game it was always Moorefield who could up the work rate and grab the big scores.

Ian Meehan and Hurley Lynch opened a 1-04 to 0-05 lead but back came Rathnew again. A superbly floated ball from James Stafford found Leighton Glynn in space. Glynn, with the excellent Mark Dempsey in close pursuit, held up the play and flicked on to Graham Merrigan who charged in on the Moorefield goal and flashed a shot across the face of goal where it was finished to the back of his own net by full-back Liam Healy.

Eanna O'Connor had the last say of the opening half and the sides went in level with Moorefield shooting down towards the Aughrim end for the second period.

Hurley Lynch and Danny Staunton traded points before Cian O'Connor picked up a red card for lashing back at Leighton Glynn. Now Rathnew had a numerical advantage but, as so often happens, it worked against them if anything and Moorefield stepped up to the plate big time.

O'Connor floated over the 45 that had been awarded prior to the red card and the pressure started to really tell on the Rathnew rearguard as tired legs became unable to get back quick enough and O'Connor made hay with five more scores, four from frees.

There was hope for Rathnew though. A foul on James Stafford under the classic high ball tactic earned a penalty and Leighton Glynn showed every last ounce of his class when he strolled up and slotted home one of the finest penalties ever taken in Aughrim.

That reduced the Moorefield lead to two but with Eanna O'Connor on song it was 1-13 to 2-07 when Jody Merrigan bagged Rathnew's last score of the game after 25 minutes.

The nail in the coffin came about as a result of fatigue. A pass that would have been made was delayed and Mark Dempsey was in like a flash to intercept. He survived two challenges before bounding off towards goal like a St Bernard dog heading down the drive to see it's long lost owner. He exchanged a one-two with Eddie Heavey before sliding home past a defenceless Peter Dignam to seal victory for the Kildare men.

So, the dream is over for Rathnew but they left nothing on the field in Joule Park, Aughrim, and have answered every critic both within and outside of Wicklow.

Well done to the Village warriors on a marvelous season which is not yet finished as they face St Patrick's in the Dunne Cup semi-final next Tuesday evening in Roundwood.

Scorers - Moorefield: Eanna O'Connor 0-8 (5fs, 1 45), Niall Hurley Lynch 1-3, Mark Dempsey 1-0, Ian Meehan 0-2.   Rathnew: Leighton Glynn 1-1 (1-0 pen), Graham Merrigan 1-0, Eddie Doyle 0-3 (1f), James Stafford, Danny Staunton, Jody Merrigan 0-1 each.

Moorefield: Tom Kinsella; Liam Callaghan, Liam Healy, Sean Healy; Kevin Murnaghan, James Murray, Mark Dempsey; Darryl Flynn, Aaron Masterson; Cian O'Connor, Eddie Heavey, Eanna O'Connor; Ian Meehan, Ronan Sweeney, Niall Hurley-Lynch. Subs: David Whyte for Masterson (45), Sean Dempsey for S Healy (56), sPadraigh O'Flynn for Callaghan (60), Aaron Mullins for Hurley Lynch (62).

Rathnew: Peter Dignam; Paul Merrigan, Damien Power, Jamie Snell; Warren Kavanagh, Ross O'Brien, Enan Glynn; James Stafford, Theo Smith; Stephen Byrne, Danny Staunton, Graham Merrigan; Mark Doyle, Leighton Glynn, Eddie Doyle. Subs: Jody Merrigan for E Doyle (41 b/c), Nicky Mernagh for Byrne (50), John Manley for E Glynn (53), Chris Healy for O'Brien (56). Referee - J Hickey (Carlow)

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