Saturday 17 November 2018

Village fall to stronger St Lomans

Leinster Senior Football Club Championship Quarter-Final

The evil eye - Rathnew’s Damien Power clearly disagrees with a decision made by Cormac Reilly
The evil eye - Rathnew’s Damien Power clearly disagrees with a decision made by Cormac Reilly

Richard Clune

The midfield battle is generally a good indicator of the eventual winner, and St Lomans' dominance in this sector, and especially that of Paul Sharry, saw the Westmeath champions emerge victorious over Rathnew to set up a Leinster semi-final with Dublin's Ballyboden St Endas.

St Lomans (WH) 2-10 Rathnew 1-06

Lomans won most of the kick outs in the game and denied Rathnew a platform from which to attack, while also launching their own attacks.

A good start helps too, and aided by a strong wind on a terrible day, Lomans were ahead by 1-04 before Rathnew registered their first score.

Kelvin Reilly and county player Shane Dempsey scored a point each from play within the opening seven minutes, and Rathnew had yet to set up an attack. John Heslin kicked over his first free from 30 metres in the 12th minute, and from the kick out Lomans gained possession and wing forward David Windsor had the ball in the net after some good forward interplay.

Lomans were in control, and perhaps were guilty of missing some chances when the wind was with them.

Midfielder Paul Sharry put over a 45 with the aid of James Stafford's fingertips, before Jody Merrigan finally got Rathnew off the mark on 18 minutes.

Again Lomans won the kick out and Kelvin Reilly skipped past a couple of challenges to score a huge point from 40 metres. They had two more wides and then John Heslin scored a second free when he was fouled by Damien Power and the ball was brought forward following Rathnew dissent. It was a debateable decision.

The referee Cormac Reilly came in for some justified criticism from both teams during the match. Near the end of the first half an off the ball altercation left a Lomans player prone on the field, but neither the referee nor his officials could identify the offending Rathnew player.

To add insult to injury, Rathnew were awarded a free and from it Nicky Mernagh's ball across the goal found James Stafford to fist the ball in the net. It was the last score of the half, leaving it 1-06 to 1-01 at half time.

The Rathnew team and supporters could have been troubled by the score line though they had been in this position many times throughout the season.

In their last three matches their second half performances were far better than in the first half.

They also had the wind in this second half, and could be confident of coming back into this match.

They opened the second half well, gaining lots of possession and building attacks.

Nicky Mernagh scored a lovely point on 35 minutes when he took a pass from Enan Glynn, rounded his man and put it over the bar. t the other end of the field Lomans were guilty of some poor shooting, midfielder Sharry kicked one wide while Shane Dempsey landed two short into Peter Dignam's hands.

John Heslin scored a free five minutes later that again was brought forward after dissent. This was the second of three frees that referee Cormac Reilly brought forward and resulted in easy points for Heslin to knock over from no more than 25 metres.

Rathnew had a strong argument that the first two frees shouldn't have been given, but they should also have the discipline and the understanding that once a free is awarded to step away.

Kicking into the wind on a wet day is difficult for any free taker, but Rathnew made it easy for Heslin to extend the lead.

Both sides could argue the referee missed some serious incidents - Stafford was tripped in the second half, a black card offence, while a Lomans player was hit in the first half.

However, a referee has yet to ever win or lose a match for any team, and it's terribly easy to make decisions from the comfort of a press box. Rathnew can only blame themselves for not keeping their mouths shut.

Two frees from Jody Merrigan put Rathnew within three points of Lomans half way through the second half, and they had clawed their way back into contention. A point from Ken Casey pushed the lead out to four, and then a hammer blow came Rathnew's way when James Stafford was sent off for a striking offence.

He was frustrated having been dispossessed, and when a Lomans player bent down to pick the ball up his challenge included a swinging fist into the player's midriff.

A player down, Rathnew responded well, and Ross O'Brien got up the field and kicked a beautiful point from distance. There was three in it with eight minutes to go.

Heslin won a kick out and was fouled, his free was passed to Paul Sharry who cut through the defence like a scythe before laying it off to Kieran Lynam for a point. It really epitomised the match as a whole - midfield dominance followed up by incisive running. Paul Sharry usually was involved.

A Merrigan free reduced Rathnew arrears once again to three with three minutes to go, but that was as good as it got for his team. A moment later another John Heslin free was brought forward for dissent, and following the kick out Merrigan got his marching orders to the delight of the Lomans fans for striking. Again, it was more out of frustration than malice, and it was in the act of tackling rather than an outright punch.

The icing on the cake came for Lomans with nearly the last kick of the game, as Adam Gaffney found himself under no pressure seven metres from goal to calmly finish to the net and push out the victory to seven points, a winning margin that will flatter Lomans.

Midfielder Paul Sharry was immense for Lomans and was the major difference between the teams, he and Adam Gaffney dominant in midfield, while he also attacked with intent.

Rathnew will look at this with a degree of regret. Their indiscipline brought forward three frees, while Lomans' second goal came in the closing moments.

Rathnew weren't seven points worse than the Westmeath men but they couldn't respond to another slow start, and giving any team a 1-04 lead is difficult.

St Lomans deserved their victory, but it should have been closer.

Scorers: St Lomans - John Heslin (4f) 0-04; Adam Gaffney, David Windsor 1-00 each; Kelvin Reilly 0-02; Paul Sharry (1 45), Kieran Lynam, Kevin Casey, Shane Dempsey 0-01 each.

Rathnew - Jody Merrigan (4f) 0-04; James Stafford 1-00; Ross O'Brien, Nicky Mernagh 0-01 each.

St Lomans - Jason Daly; Gerry Grehan, Shane Dlynn, Jason O'Toole; Gary Glennon, Paddy Dowdall, David Whelan; Adam Gaffnew, Paul Sharry; Kieran Lynam, John Heslin, David Windsorl Ken Casey, Kelvin Reilly, Shane Dempsey. Subs: Conradh Reilly for Paddy Dowdall 42 mins; Ronan O'Toole for David Windsor 44 mins; Ciaran Kilmurray for Shane Dempsey 56 mins.

Rathnew - Peter Dignam; Paul Merrigan, Damien Power, Jamie Snell; Warren Kavanagh, Ross O'Brien, John Manley; Adam Merriman, James Stafford; Enan Glynn, Leighton Glynn, Theo Smyth; Nicky Mernagh, Jody Merrigan, Stephen Byrne. Subs: Graham Merrigan for Stephen Byrne HT; Johnny Byrne for Theo Smyth 56 mins.

Referee: Cormac Reilly (Meath).

Bray People