Village keep Hollywood at arm's length
Rathnew 1-14 Hollywood 1-8
This was another solid and almost inevitable Rathnew victory in this year's Boom & Platform Hire Senior Football Championship as they dismantled a game Hollywood outfit.
It was a game of some drama as well that involved linesman Stephen Fagan being knocked out after an accidental collision on the sideline following the contesting of a breaking ball that was heading out over the line.
The Baltinglass official was caught between JT Hayden and the metal railings outside the dugout and was reported to be knocked unconscious by the totally accidental collision. Hayden had been shouldered into the path of Fagan as he went for the ball.
The game itself was an interesting one but at no time did you feel that Rathnew were in any real danger of losing it although Hollywood's spurning of a number of goal chances certainly didn't help their cause in that regard.
Rathnew's eternal ability to eke out results when they are depleted and without the services of key men was very much in evidence on Sunday when Eddie Doyle and Nicky Mernagh stepped up the plate and delivered a huge shift in the red and green, Doyle bagging eight points (two frees), and Mernagh lobbing in a massively important 1-2.
No Jody Merrigan, no Leighton Glynn, no Ross O'Brien, no Mark Doyle - it's kind of irrelevant who lines out in the starting 15 for Harry Murphy's side at this stage. Once they have 15 bodies in the jersey at Senior level there seems to be a magic that takes place and lifts performances and belief and resolve to a higher plain.
Rathnew's win sees them level on points with AGB and facing a battle with old foes Kiltegan this coming Saturday in what is a fine opportunity for Harry Murphy's men to secure a semi-final berth given that AGB must travel to Baltinglass to face a flying Tinahely side and a slip up there by Damien Redmond's men will, providing they beat Rathnew, send the Village through to the last four and, perhaps more importantly, give them time to nurse injuries and gather strength for whatever follows.
To do that they must get past Kiltegan and no better team to derail the best of plans that Geoffrey Bermingham's outfit who will look to Seanie Furlong and Derek Daly to strike at the heart of the Rathnew defence.
That same defence kept Hollywood to 1-8 over the course of the hour in Aughrim on Sunday. Jamie Snell filled in at three for the injured Ross O'Brien while the marauding James Stafford dropped back when required to mind the house in times of need.
Sam O'Dowd lined out alongside Stafford in midfield and looked completely at home while Theo Smyth moved to 11 and Nicky Mernagh pushed up to the full-forward line where he gave the Hollywood defence more than enough to think about along with Eddie Doyle and Paul Ellis.
Mark Murnaghan's Hollywood are out of the running for a quarter-final place but given the league campaign they had they are in with a very good shout of securing safety from the Keating Trophy if they beat Newtown in Aughrim on Saturday and that would be a commendable finish to what has been a testing season overall.
It was the Nicky and Eddie show in the opening stages of this game as first Nicky Mernagh and then Eddie Doyle pointed for Rathnew, Doyle's a goal chance that was blocked by Harry Wilson. Mernagh also nothced up two early wises as Rathnew hit the ground ruining at the county grounds.
Stephen Kearney got Hollywod of the mark but wides would be a constant in Holloywod's downfall on the day and they had six misses on the board by the time Eddie Doyle sent over a free after a foul by Mikey Healy on the rampaging Jamie Snell.
Doyle followed that with a point from play of his left before Hary Wilson stormed up from full-back and should have torn Peter Dignam's net in half but blazed over instead with 18 gone and his side trailing by 0-4 to 0-2.
Two more Eddie Doyle points pushed Rathnew four ahead but a Thomas Burke free and a fine effort from Conor Burke off the outside of his right boot brought Hollywood kicking and screaming back into this game by the 29th minute.
But Rathnew would finish the stronger. Nicky Mernagh swung over after Holywood had coughed up possession and Paul Ellis finished with aplomb to send Rathnew in with an 0-8 to 0-4 lead at the break.
Hollywood started brightly but Cian Tyrrell could only watch as his shot was saved by the man mountain Peter Dignam in the Rathnew goal.
A long Rathnew ball caught Hary Wilson on the hop and Eddie Doyle stroked over to open up a 0-9 to 0-4 lead but Holywood roared back into contention with a sweet Stephen Kearney goal after a ball from Rob Houlihan and great work from Conor Burke.
Kearney added a point to close the gap to one, but the key moment followed when Hollywood missed the chance to draw level and Rathnew went up the field and Danny Staunton fired over after great work by Nicky Mernagh.
Rathnew owned the next 15 minutes and went on to open up a 0-14 to 1-6 lead through points from Eddie Doyle (two, one free), James Stafford with a stunner of his left, Graham Merrigan before ruthlessly kiling the game of with a Nicky Mernagh major following good work from Eddie Doyle and the ever-impressive James Stafford.
Both sides were probably fortunate to have 15 on the field after it looked like blows were struck over on the stand side between Graham Merrigan and Ciaran Tyrrell but referee Noel Kinsella issued two yellows.
Rathnew march on. A slip up from AGB and victory for them against Kiltegan and they reach the last four and from there anything can happen.
Scorers - Rathnew: Eddie Doyle 0-8 (2f), Nicky Mernagh 1-2, Paul Ellis 0-1, Danny Staunton 0-1, James Stafford 0-1, Graham Merrigan 0-1. Hollywood: Stephen Kearney 0-4, Rob Houlihan 1-0, Tom Burke 0-2 (1f), Conor Burke 0-1, Harry Wilson 0-1.
Rathnew: Peter Dignam; David Jameson, Jamie Snell, Paul Merrigan; Gary Byrne, JT Hayden, Warren Kavanagh; James Stafford, Sam O'Dowd; Danny Staunton, Theo Smyth, Graham Merrigan; Paul Ellis, Nicky Mernagh, Eddie Doyle. Subs: Jack Healy for G Merrigan (60).
Hollywood: Jamie Tutty; Seanie O'Keefe, Harry Wilson, Shane Kelly; Conor Burke, Mikey Healy, Harry Houlihan; Cian Tyrrell, Kevin Murphy; Robert Kelly, Eoin Burke, Robert Houlihan; Thomas Burke, Stephen Kearney, PJ O'Keeffe. Subs: Keith Traynor for S O'Keeffe (inj), Ciaran Tyrrell for K Murphy, Colin Tutty for E Burke, Jack Cullen for K Traynor, Keith Peppard for R Kelly (BC).
Referee: Noel Kinsella (Lacken-Kilbride)