Rathnew 1-13 St Vincent’s 1-9
Wicklow champions Rathnew, priced at 15/2 by the bookies delivered another memorable performance on Sunday to topple hotly fancied St Vincents. Drifting out to 66/1 at one stage during the game the men from the Village were simply brilliant on the day.
It was a brilliantly finished goal in the last five minutes by James Stafford that shook Joule Park and Leinster club football to its core as the big man caught the ball from Ross O’Brien’s shot one handed and turned to bury it in the corner all in one movement. Stafford kicked another point in injury-time to cap a memorable individual performance and confirm another famous day in Aughrim and one that Wicklow GAA badly needed.
The game did look to be turning back in St Vincents favour in the 46th minute when Quinn palmed home a clever ball from Enda Varley after a fine passing movement up the field. They had kicked two quick fire points just before the goal and now led 1-09 to 0-10. It seemed like an inevitable score that would lead to the expected outcome. They would not score again.
Points from corner back Paul Merrigan off his left foot and then a fisted effort from James Stafford would bring the Wicklow champions level at 0-12 to 1-9. It was at this moment everybody present really believed that the impossible could happen. Those in red and green had believed from the start.
There was nothing St Vincent’s or their subdued captain Diarmuid Connolly could do to save the Dublin champions, who had won third Dublin title in the last four years recently. Connolly had been shadowed all day long by Damien Power and the man who was part of the team that landed the Leinster club title for Rathnew back in 2001 gave an exhibition of disciplined man marking.
Heavy underfoot conditions and a contrary wind necessitated controlled football and with Leighton Glynn in superb form Rathnew adapted far better. Vincents did start well and shot in to a 0-4 to 0-1 lead and had one or two half chances for goals but Shane Carthy failed to hold a Connolly pass and his lofted effort sailed over Peter Dignams crossbar.
Rathnew grew and grew and deservedly take the plaudits from near and far for the win. Harry Murphy will want another crack at Leinster and will get them back to Earth and preparation will begin for a tough semi-final game with Moorefield the visitors on the 26th.
It was a day that will live long in the memory of those in attendance and the support for Rathnew on the day was immense with all Wicklow Gaels lending their voices to the Rathnew cause.
Rathnew will host Kildare champions Moorefield on Sunday week and lets make it another day to remember in Wicklow GAA.
Peter Dignam was safe as ever in goal and had plenty to do with the wind holding shots up and he also had an important save or two to make.
Paul Merrigan had his usual game, steady, safe and cool under pressure. He took a dangerous rebound away from goal in the early stages and also kicked a score that will live long in the memory.
Damien Power has rightly received plenty of plaudits for how he chaperoned Connolly but he found plenty of time to get on lots of ball and was always available as an out ball.
Jamie Snell can break the line and his running was vital to what Rathnew were doing. Comfortable on the ball and kept Varley away from goal.
Warren Kavanagh is having the year of his life on the GAA field and was outstanding agin and never stopped working.
Ross O’Brien has finally settled back in to his role at centre back. A super athlete who was a collossus around the middle and chipped in with a score and the pass for Staffords goal.
Enan Glynn never stopped going forward and this upset the Vincents game plan as they usually have it all their own way in the half forward line. Handled plenty of ball and used it wisely.
James Stafford is fast becoming the goal scoring king of Wicklow football. His ability to sneak in for goals is a serious asset and as he showed on Sunday he can get crucial scores from anywhere as he put Vincents to the sword.
Theo Smith has grown to be the perfect foil for Stafford and had his best game in ages on Sunday getting through a monumental amount of work.
Stephen Byrne spent most of the day in the inside line where he never gave the St Vincents defence a moments peace. No ball is a hopeless cause for Bruiser and his work closes down options. He also won a couple of vital frees foraging for the dirty ball.
Leighton Glynn gave an exhibition once again in game management. Dictating the play and the pace of the game are second nature to him and in a frantic game he seemed to have an eternity when on the ball. Class act.
Graham Merrigan worked his socks off and was really good in the opening stages of the game settling really quickly to his task. Kept the Vincents half backs busy and they got forward very little.
Danny Staunton a somewhat surprising starter was excellent. Got some good early touches to settle himself and delivered an assured display and a solid work rate.
Mark Doyle rarely loses one on one battles and his score at the start of the second half was magical. He can hang in the air to contest all sorts of deliveries and his free taking was high standard on Sunday too.
Eddie Doyle kicked a brace of points in the first half in quick succession that really gave belief to the team. His point from play going away from goal to level the game at 0-4 each was a sublime effort. Unerring from placed balls.
John Manley looked like a player with a point to prove when he came on. Used his pace to win a couple of vital turn overs and set Rathnew on the attack.
Jody Merrigan entered the fray broken hand and all. He very nearly got in for a score in his short cameo role and the couple of weeks recuperation will see him play more of a role against Moorefield.
Nicky Mernagh was sorely missed but in a way his absence probably drove the rest on to do it for him. Will he recover sufficiently to play against Moorefield who knows? If he does it will be a savage boost to Harry Murphy and the rest.
RATHNEW: Peter Dignam; Paul Merrigan (0-1), Damien Power, Jamie Snell; Warren Kavanagh, Ross O’Brien (0-1), Enan Glynn; James Stafford (1-2), Theo Smith; Graham Merrigan, Leighton Glynn (Capt) (0-2), Danny Staunton; Stephen Byrne, Mark Doyle (0-4, 3 fs), Eddie Doyle (0-3, 1f). Subs: John Manley for Staunton (50 mins), Jody Merrigan for Byrne (57 mins).
ST VINCENT’S: M Savage; M Concarr, J Curley, C Wilson; F Breathnach, G Brennan, K Sheehy; L Galvin, D Murphy; G Burke (0-1), D Connolly (capt) (0-1f,), C Diamond; E Varley (0-2), S Carty (0-1), T Quinn (1-3, , 2f’s, 1 45). Subs: E Fennel foor Galvin (36 mins), R Trainor (0-1) for Diamond (39 mins), J McCusker for Brennan (44 mins), J Feeney for Murphy