Saturday 19 January 2019

Cilles' joy at opening-day win

GAA Meath Senior Football Championship: Colmcilles 1-16 Rathkenny 0-12

Sean Wall in Stamullen

Two of the sides less fancied to make it to the knockout stages from Group C of the SFC clashed in the second game at Stamullen last Saturday and it was St Colmcille's who gave their prospects a boost following a deserved victory.

The east Meath side failed to record a win in their first year back in the senior grade but avoided the relegation play-off on score difference. Rathkenny's only win in 2017 was against Duleek-Bellewstown who subsequently lost their senior status, so this was a crucial tie for both.

With 40 minutes of the game played there was little to choose between the teams, who had earlier been level on five different occasions. At that stage a share of the spoils looked a distinct possibility.

Cathal Hilliard's 39th-minute point edged the seasiders ahead and they never surrendered the lead after that. That score proved to be the start of a dominant spell for the eventual winners who then hit a goal and a further four points in succession to ease themselves into a 1-14 to 0-9 lead by the 48th minute.

During that spell Des Lane's side played some delightful football as they put their opponents to the sword.

There was no way back for Rathkenny after and they eventually finished with 14 following the dismissal of midfielder Brian Meade on receipt of a second yellow card in added time. St Colmcille's sub Ian Mullen was black-carded, arising from the same incident.

Both sides enjoyed spells of dominance throughout the opening half, with St Colmcille's opening up a 0-6 to 0-3 lead following Ben Brennan's 20th-minute point.

Rathkenny had started with two pointed frees from Keith Curtis inside three minutes before long-serving Ciaran Kelly had Cille's off the mark on six minutes.

Kelly added two further points before the end of the half, both from frees, and it was the second of those that left his side level at 0-7 each at the break.

Rathkenny enjoyed their best spell in the 10 minutes before half-time, with county player Donal Keogan proving a tremendous driving force. It was Keogan who had his side's opening points from play after he switched from defence to attack, and with Stephen Crosbie, Curtis and Brian Lenehan adding further scores Rathkenny found themselves in front approaching half-time.

However they had to settle for parity at the interval following Kelly's late equaliser.

The lead changed hands twice in the opening passages of the second half. First, Curtis - with his fifth point - edged Rathkenny in front, but the sides were back level after Ben Brennan converted a 45-metre free.

James Conlon and Keogan then exchanged points before Cille's made a surge for the winning post.

Two further points from Kelly, the second a great effort from the right wing, left it 0-12 to 0-9, and then came the decisive goal at the end of the third quarter. Graham Reilly and James Conlon were involved in setting Ben Brennan in the clear and the county man might have went for goal himself but instead picked out the unmarked Cathal Hilliard who finished to the net.

Hilliard and Brennan then added points to leave their side out of sight.

Rathkenny never gave up the fight, but they were unable to create much in attack and rarely threatened the goal needed to get themselves back into contention.

ST COLMCILLE'S: Andrew Beakey; Adam Lynch, Jamie McDonnell, Ciaran Ward; Jeff Kavanagh, Cathal Hilliard 1-2, Carl Mullen; David O'Byrne, Ruairi O'Grady; Ben Brennan 0-3 (1f), Jack Reynolds 0-1, Graham Reilly 0-2, Conor O'Byrne, Ciaran Kelly 0-5 (3f), James Conlon 0-3. Subs: Ian Mullen for Ward (h-t), Robbie McCloskey for O'Grady (44), Sean Collier for Hilliard (59), Ian Mullen (BC 61 not replaced)

RATHKENNY: Colin Curtis; Niall Brannigan, Ross Gore, Joe Gore; Thomas McGuinness, Christy Meade, Donal Keogan 0-2; Robert Garry, Brian Meade; Brian Lenehan 0-1, Jack Gore 0-1, Stephen Crosbie 0-1, Keith Curtis 0-6 (5f), James Macken 0-1, Keith Timmons. Subs: Donal Curtis for Lenehan (53), Jack Thompson for Timmons (54).

REF: Jack Gordon (Walterstown).

Drogheda Independent