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Baltinglass in a good place after victory over Rathnew in SFL Division 1

Comfortable win at home

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Jamie Snell of Rathnew clears as John McGrath closes in.

Jamie Snell of Rathnew clears as John McGrath closes in.

Jamie Snell of Rathnew clears as John McGrath closes in.

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Baltinglass 1-17

Rathnew 1-10

Baltinglass have given themselves a fighting chance of being crowned Division 1 champions after overcoming Rathnew in emphatic fashion last Friday night in Baltinglass.

The seven-point victory over their old rivals leaves them on 19 points in second spot behind St Patrick’s who lead the way on 20, so it all comes down to the final game in the competition, with Kevin O’Brien taking his charges to Avondale on Friday evening, July 1, and Robbie Leahy welcoming AGB on Satruday evening, July 2.

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Nothing only a win for Baltinglass and defeat for Pat’s will do for Kevin O’Brien’s men.

O’Brien will have to have been happy with the manner of this victory on a fine evening for football last Friday. A competitive early start to the game that saw the sides level at 0-2 apiece early on and Rathnew chasing hard at 0-4 to 0-5 down after 21 was transformed when Tom Keogh got in for the game’s opening goal after 26.

That 1-6 to 0-4 lead was how it stayed at half-time, but it was devastating opening 20 minutes of the second half from the home side as they charged out to a 1-16 to 0-7 lead thanks to powerful running, strong defending and lethal attacking play with John McGrath, Adam McHugh, Johnny Keogh and Patrick Kirwan all pivotal to the Baltinglass attack.

Rathnew would come with a late burst which included a Paul Merrigan goal after the Baltinglass defence were caught napping on a quick free and three fine late scores to close the gap to seven before referee Kieron Kenny sounded the full-time whistle.

A major factor of the Baltinglass performance were the kick-outs, frees and overall play of Mark Jackson in goals. He opened the scoring after two minutes, dealt with the majority of things that came his way and produced a kick-out performance that was simply outstanding. Whether it was landing a ball on the preferred nipple of a midfielder from 60 yards or booming monstrous rockets out beyond the opposition’s 45, the Wicklow netminder showed the full range of his talents in this game.

Jackson’s point and a John McGrath effort from play were answered by points from Eddie Doyle (free) and Theo Smyth to leave it level after 10.

Arun Daly Danne had a fine game at full-back for Baltinglass along with John Murray and Chris Grimes and Rathnew found it hard to break them down early on, resorting to kicks from way out that either fell kindly for Jackson or tailed harmlessly wide.

A Jackson 45 and a point from Adam McHugh reopened that two-point advantage but Jack Healy and another Eddie Doyle free either side of a John McGrath effort off his right left it 0-5 to 0-4 after 21.

Another Jackson free and Keogh’s major left it 1-6 to 0-4 at the break.

Those dynamic, hard-working 20 minutes followed for Baltinglass. In fairness, they probably left four or five goals behind them, Darragh Hosey pulling off a fine save from Patrick Whelan three minutes into the second half.

The always classy Nicky Mernagh opened Rathnew’s account with a fine score but Balto took over from here until the 23rd minute by which time they had wrenched open that 1-14 to 0-6 gulf between the sides.

Kevin O’Brien and Alan Clarke both made numerous changes and Paul Merrigan, one of those Rathnew subs, bagged a fine goal after a quick free.

Baltinglass looked impressive. Jack Kirwan looks very natural in the middle of the field and Sean Doody will give you everything. Kevin Murphy brings a fine presence to half-back and Billy Cullen is very solid, and with McGrath pulling the strings inside and ably assisted by the Keoghs, McHugh, Kirwan and Whelan, they won’t be very far away.

This was a blip for Rathew, nothing more. Serious operators all over the field and some who didn’t feature. They had decent showings from Nicky Mernagh, Sam O’Dowd and Ross O’Brien.

Baltinglass: Mark Jackson (0-3, 2f, 1 45); John Murray, Arun Daly Danne, Chris Grimes; Kevin Murphy, Billy Cullen, Karl Furlong; Jack Kirwan (0-1), Sean Doody (0-3); Patrick Kirwan, Johnny Keogh (0-1), Patrick Whelan; Tom Keogh (1-1, m), John McGrath (0-4, 1f), Adam McHugh (0-3). Subs: Dan Kelly for P Kirwan (48), Jamie Furlong (0-1) for J McGrath (52), David Gethings for K Murphy (55), Mikey English for P Whelan (56), Stephen Heaslip for K Furlong (59).

Rathnew: Darragh Hosey; Gary Byrne, Jamie Snell, Conor Lenehan; Adam Byrne, Ross O’Brien, Ronan Manley; Theo Smyth (0-1), James Stafford; Jack Healy (0-1), Sam O’Dowd, William Moorehouse (0-1); Ross Quinn, Nicky Mernagh (0-3), Eddie Doyle (0-4, 3f). Subs: Toby Curran for A Byrne (40), Fionn O’Sullivan for G Byrne (44), Sean Coffey for J Stafford (48), Killian Clarke for J Healy (50), Paul Merrigan (1-0) for C Lenehan (53).

Referee: Kieron Kenny (Tinahely)


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