Saturday 16 February 2019

Blue Steel powers Pat's to 'Miley' joy

GAA: Renault senior football championship replay - St Patrick's 0-10 Rathnew 0-8

The St Patrick’s team and supporters celebrate in Joule Park Aughrim after they defeated Rathnew in the SFC final replay.
The St Patrick’s team and supporters celebrate in Joule Park Aughrim after they defeated Rathnew in the SFC final replay.

Brendan Lawrence at Joule Park Aughrim

At half-time in this Renault Senior Football championship final replay you wondered what was going to become of Pat's as they trailed by 0-5 to 0-3 with no scores from play and turning around to play towards the Rednagh Hill end.

When Declan Peppard sounded that sweet final whistle Casey O'Brien's men had answered all doubters by delivering a stunning last 15 minutes of football that brought an end to six years of hurt and close calls and disappointment.

How did they do it? An inspired defence, impressive fitness and natural born leaders all over the field, including the man with the lethal left peg, Stephen Duffy.

Across the county, the commonly held view was that Pat's would be taken to the cleaners under high balls, and the AGB game served to enforce that opinion. The loss of Padraig Higgins and James Kavanagh (injury and emigration) were tough blows and in Ciaran Doyle, Shane Murley and Wayne Doyle they had brave and capable soldiers who were, unfortunately, lacking in height, and therein lay Pat's problem.

But there's an old saying that states: It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog, and nowhere else has that statement been more apt that in the county final and county final replay between St Pat's and Rathnew.

High ball after high ball was dealt with superbly by Wayne Doyle and Shane Murley and with Ciaran Doyle and Conor Ffrench collecting their breaks and clearing up in front of them they managed to hold Rathnew goalless over two games. That is a fair achievement.

This was a Pat's team utterly transformed from recent years, fitter, stronger, more assured. Where they might have crumbled in the past, they had enough young and fearless warriors to maintain focus and drive on to the finish line.

Conor Ffrench has surely hoisted himself up to the position of being one of the best footballers in the county with his performances over the course of this championship. John Crowe, Jordan Pettigrew, Paul O'Brien, Patrick O'Keane, Simon Bouchier and Jack Dunne show no fear and carry very little baggage.

Combine that youthful vigour with the experience and class of Dean Healy, Paudge McWalter, Paul Earls, Tommy Kelly and Stephen Duffy and you have the ingredients for a formidable force in club football in Wicklow. All that is required is a man to pull it all together. Step forward Casey O'Brien.

Hardly a whisper escaped from the St Patrick's club this year. Besides playing their games there was nothing. Total silence. When they barged their way through to the county final the anticipated build up did not materialise. No flags, no bunting, no smoke bombs, no social media campaigns of support. Just football. Pure and simple.

Shane Murley saved the day in Joule Park the first day when he punched over the equaliser. Pat's could have lost that game but might have won it as well. On to the replay. Blunt in attack in the extreme over the course of three quarters of the game, they had Stephen Duffy to thank to for their scores and their fantastic full-back line to thank for remaining in the game.

Rathnew started superbly. JT Moorehouse got them up and running with a fine score before Duffy dragged Pat's kicking and screaming into the game with two converted frees won by the powerful running of Dean Healy to leave them ahead by 0-2 to 0-1 after 12.

Leighton Glynn exploded into the game. Bang, bang, and Rathnew led by 0-3 to 0-2 in the space of 120 seconds before the dual star turned provider for Mark Doyle who fired over as Harry Murphy's men started to dominate.

Nicky Mernagh opened the lead to three with a bomb off his left with 15 on the clock before Duffy pointed a free for a foul on Paul O'Brien to make it 0-5 to 0-3 after 17 for what would be the last score of the opening half. Pat's would lose Simon Bouchier to injury after 27 minutes with Patrick O'Keane entering the fray in his place.

There were five realistic goal chances in that first half. Dean Healy drove at the Rathnew defence but was fouled twice. Leighton Glynn might have had a goal had he kept his shot lower and Mark Doyle found himself in possession in front of the Pat's goal on two occasions and pointed once and watched as his shot was saved by three Pat's defenders on the second occasion.

Excellent Rathnew play saw them open up a 0-7 to 0-3 lead after 11 minutes of the second half through points from Mark Doyle (free) and Eddie Doyle from play.

But Pat's had Stephen Duffy, and that meant that any transgression was punished ruthlessly, and he made it 0-7 to 0-6 after 48 minutes.

Amazingly, Mark Doyle would swing over Rathnew's last score after 49 minutes after a foul on Nicky Mernagh and from here on in it was all Pat's.

Either side of Stephen Duffy pulling Pat's back to within a point of the defending champions, Mark Doyle collected two yellow cards and was dismissed by Declan Peppard.

Pat's attacked in waves and Tommy Kelly fired over a tremendous score to level the game at 0-8 apiece after 59 minutes with four of added on announced.

Wayne Doyle intercepted a long ball to Jody Merrigan who signaled immediately that he would have to leave the field. Up the field went Pat's. The ball was worked to Shane Murley who had the ball robbed from him by tenacious Rathnew defending.

Theo Smyth was turned over out the field. Pat's attacked and were turned over. Stephen 'Bruiser' Byrne was introduced for Merrigan. Nicky Mernagh picked out Stafford who had been pushed up, but the Village stalwart fired wide after 32.

On came Pat's. Patrick O'Keane feeds Stephen Duffy whose shot is blocked by Ross O'Brien. John Crowe recycles and feeds Duffy who fires over the lead score to the pure delight of the Pat's faithful.

Rathnew have 40 seconds to rescue their championship. Theo Smyth has a chance to send in a high ball but it's over-cooked and goes wide.

Colm Byrne sends his kick-out long over the heads of the midfielders and John Crowe runs on to the ball. He exchanges passes with Paul O'Brien, back to Crowe, to Paul O'Brien, to Paul Earls, Patrick O'Keane, to Tommy Kelly, off the right, Tommmmyyyyy Kelllyyyyyyy, Tommmmyyyyyyy Kellllyyyyy, she's over the bar, the final whistle sounds. Pure bliss, pure delight, pure Blue steel!

Scorers - St Patrick's: Stephen Duffy 0-8 (7f), Tommy Kelly 0-2. Rathnew: Leighton Glynn 0-2, JT Moorehouse 0-1, Mark Doyle 0-3 (2f), Nicky Mernagh 0-1, Eddie Doyle 0-1.

St Patrick's: Colm Byrne; Ciaran Doyle, Shane Murley, Wayne Doyle; Simon Bouchier, Conor Ffrench, John Crowe; Dean Healy, Jonathan Delahunt; Jordan Pettigrew, Patrick McWalter, Paul Earls; Stephen Duffy, Paul O'Brien, Thomas Kelly. Subs: Patrick O'Keane for S Bouchier (27, inj), Ciaran McGettigan for J Delahunt (38).

Rathnew: Peter Dignam; Paul Merrigan, Damien Power, Jamie Snell; JT Moorehouse, Ross O'Brien, Warren Kavanagh; James Stafford, Theo Smyth; Edward Doyle, Jody Merrigan, Graham Merrigan; Nicky Mernagh, Mark Doyle, Leighton Glynn. Subs: Stephen Byrne for J Merrigan (58, inj), Danny Staunton for Graham Merrigan (60).

Referee: Declan Peppard (Hollywood)

Wicklow People