Stamullen draw comfort from thrilling comeback
GAA Meath SFC: St Patrick's 4-9 Ratoath 3-12
A massive gap exists between these teams in the Senior Football Championship betting, but there was nothing to separate them at the end of what was at times an extraordinary opening to the race for the Keegan Cup at Ashbourne last Friday evening.
Maybe the Stamullen men should adopt the Chuck Berry hit from the 1960s 'You Never Can Tell' as their anthem. On any given day the east Meath side are a match for the best but are just as liable to produce one of their forgettable displays.
Ratoath led by nine points at one stage in the opening half but were denied victory in the ninth minute of added time when substitute Niall Whearty converted an awkward close-range free.
Whearty lost his footing as he kicked, but the ball had just enough momentum to scale the Ratoath crossbar for the equaliser.
Ratoath supporters vented their anger at referee Patrick Nelis at the final whistle, and who could blame them? The free against Darragh McGill seemed harsh, but where the Kilmainham official got nine minutes of added time from, not even St Patrick's supporters could explain that one.
However, Ratoath have only themselves to blame for getting caught at the end as they enjoyed a six-point lead after 56 minutes.
At one stage in the opening half it looked like Ratoath would win in a canter, despite starting without the injured Eamon Wallace and conceding a goal on two minutes when Kieran Lynch finished to the net.
That goal came in response to a Gavin McGowan point within 15 seconds of the start. Scores flowed with regularity throughout the opening half as Ratoath led 3-9 to 2-4 at the break.
The game's second goal arrived on five minutes after Joey Wallace cut in from the left before producing a sublime finish. Wallace limped out of the action with an injury on 16 minutes, but that loss didn't seem to adversely affect Ratoath who had their second goal from Keith McCabe to open up a 2-6 to 1-2 lead.
Niall Russell's side responded almost immediately and when the ball fell kindly to Neil O'Flaherty he made no mistake on 18 minutes.
A foul by keeper Brian Calvey on McCabe led to Ratoath's third goal from the penalty spot, converted by McCabe himself.
St Patrick's responded with points from Niall Mooney and Padraig Nulty before Brian Power brought an action-packed opening half to an end with the last score to leave eight points between the sides.
Scores didn't flow with such regularity in the second half, for Ratoath at least, who only added three further points to their first-half tally.
Alan Vickers brought St Patrick's closer with a goal within 30 seconds of the restart. However, it was only after Shane Dowling netted their fourth goal on 59 minutes to leave two points between the sides that it looked as if St Patrick's might get something from the game.
A Conor Rooney point on the stroke of 60 minutes left three in it, but then in additional time Niall Mooney converted two frees before Whearty struck the all important equaliser.
ST PATRICK'S: Brian Calvey; Adam Byrne, David McQuillan, David Stafford; Ciaran Sullivan, Barry Mooney, Shane Dowling 1-0; Alan Vickers 1-1, Darren Hagan; Diarmuid Quinn 0-1, Donal Landy, Padraig Nulty 0-1; Niall Mooney 0-5 (4f), Kieran Lynch 1-0, Neil O'Flaherty 1-0. Subs: Shane Byrne for Landy (11), John Curtis for Hagan (43), Johnny Woods for Nulty (50), Niall Whearty 0-1f for Lynch (58).
RATOATH: Shane Duffy; Darragh McGill, Conor McGill, Ben Wyer; Brian O'Connor; Gavin McGowan 0-1, Brian Power 0-1; David McGowan, Ben McGowan; Ciaran O Ferraigh 0-1, Conor Rooney 0-3, Keith McCabe 2-1 (1-0 pen); Brian McMahon 0-4 (1f), Joey Wallace 1-0, Darragh Kelly 0-1. Subs: Gareth Rooney for Wallace (16), Darragh McPartlin for Duffy (18), Cian Rogers for D McGowan (45), Cian O'Brien for O Ferraigh (45), Jack McGowan for McCabe (58), Enda Cahill for G McGowan (BC 64).
REF: Patrick Nelis (Kilmainham).