Mount Leinster Rangers 1-10
Éire Óg 1-9
By Kieran Murphy
THIS senior football championship quarter-final at Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday was not a game for the purists. Yet for excitement, drama, heart-stopping moments and for what was probably the longest spell of injury time ever played at the venue, this was riveting.
Knowing the pedigree of Mount Leinster Rangers and what they have done on the hurling field, why are the footballers written off so often?
Last year they came so close to beating Old Leighlin and while they lost a replay they showed they could match up to the top sides.
Perhaps it is their inconsistency? At times they were awful in the group stages. Not here. Éire Óg never saw the train coming.
Eddie Byrne was listed at midfield in the match programme. He foraged up front in the first half alongside his brother Diarmuid as Rangers gathered men in their own half-back line and midfield area. The tactic worked a treat. The two Byrne brothers exploited space in the full-forward line.
Teenager Chris Nolan was on fire too. He landed the first point. Eddie Byrne found the posts with the outside of his right foot. Denis Murphy landed a free and another Byrne effort had Rangers four up.
Cormac Mullins eventually got the town side going on 15 minutes. Byrne replied with a free and the busy Simon Rea scored Éire Óg’s second point.
The Éire Óg defence was exposed when David Phelan thundered through at the scoreboard end. He could have taken his chance but unselfishly fed Eddie Byrne. The full-forward with number nine on his back rattled the net.
Two Niall Quinlan frees got Éire Óg back into the contest. When Cormac Mullins scored a goal it looked as if the game was going to go as anticipated. Gary Kelly’s point for Rangers just before the break gave them a 1-6 to 1-4 lead. Significantly, Eoghan Ruth received a black card in the half which astonished and devastated him. Murtough Ware wasn’t a bad replacement.
Both sides struggled to find space in the second half. Quinlan and Murphy traded frees. Substitute Eric McCormack was Éire Óg’s main scoring threat. He pointed from play and with seven minutes left Quinlan levelled.
Surely that was the cue for the favourites. No. Nolan and Kelly restored Rangers’ two-point lead. An Eric McCormack free brought it back to one.
Incredibly there was seven minutes of extra-time announced. Éire Óg could never claw back their opponents. Paul Coady took one for the team when receiving a black card for halting a dangerous looking Éire Óg attack. In the melee that followed his brother John was dismissed. The resultant free made it a one-point game.
Overall, 10 minutes of extra-time was played as Rangers dug in and hardly gave Éire Óg a sniff. When it was all over it took heart beats a while to return to normal.
MLR: Thomas Brennan; Padraig Nolan, Richard Coady, Kevin McDonald; Brian Nolan, David Phelan, Gary Kelly (0-2); Denis Roche, Edward Byrne (1-3,1f); Jack Murphy, Denis Murphy (0-2fs), Willie Hickey; Paul Coady, Diarmuid Byrne, Chris Nolan (0-3). Subs: Cathal Kelly for Mahon (blood), John Coady for Roche (24 mins), Niall Lynam for B Nolan (57 mins), Richie Kelly for J Murphy (63 mins).
Éire Óg: Robert Moore; Richie Mahon, Mark Fitzgerald, Niall Kenny; Jordan Lowry, Kelvin Chatten, Benny Kavanagh; Sean Gannon, Eoghan Ruth; Simon Rea (0-1), Darragh O’Brien, Mark Furey; Cormac Mullins (1-1), Chris Blake, Niall Quinlan (0-5,4fs). Subs: Murtough Ware for Ruth (black card 28 mins), Eric McCormack (0-2,1f) for O’Brien (47 mins), Cathal Kenny for Mahon (49 mins), Richie Mahon for Lowry (59 mins)
Referee: Brian Deering (Rathvilly).