ON Sunday, Rathvilly and Palatine come face to face in a county final for only the second time in their history. In 2002 it took a replay to separate them. What odds on a repeat performance this year?.
The first final 14 years ago was played in late October. With five minutes left, Rathvilly were two points up and looked capable of holding on for a first title since 1991. The introduction of Pakie O’Toole precipitated a dramatic Palatine comeback and the substitute landed a 57th-minute point. Then James Reid slotted an equaliser. Palatine were not finished yet.
Bryan Farrell took a late tackle as he delivered towards the Rathvilly goal. O’Toole secured possession, made ground and as the ball flew over the bar it looked as if Palatine had stolen it.
With the final whistle coming almost immediately there was some confusion as to why the score was not allowed. In fact, O’Toole was penalised for over-carrying (harshly according to some observers) and the referee blew full-time immediately afterwards. It finished Rathvilly 2-4 Palatine 1-7.
“We probably played wrong tactics the first day. When we had the wind we probably played a little defensively and didn’t push up,” recalls the Palatine goalkeeper in 2002, Tom Nolan.
“We sat back and let them come back at us. The team coming from behind had the momentum,” agrees Cathal Cole, the Rathvilly left-half back at the time.
In the replay, Rathvilly dominated the first half. Cathal Cole would be the first to admit his side were not the free-scoring team which contests next Sunday’s decider. At the time, Rathvilly sides grafted out results through hard work and excellent defending.
“We were young, naïve in some ways but we had a great work ethic and chased every ball down.”
Cole was only 21 but the experienced Sean Kavanagh was a huge influence in the middle of the field. With him came a side who were young but hungry.
“John Kehoe at centre back, John Bolger was the same age as me.
JJ Smith would have been a minor. It was a young team who had come from nowhere,” recalls Cole.
“We never won that much at underage. I think we won an under-14 B but that was it,” recalls Cathal who is now a member of the St Andrew’s management team who will contest this year’s intermediate final.
Seventeen-year-old Daniel O’Brien scored the second goal for Rathvilly who, having learned from the replay, didn’t let it slip when holding onto a two-point lead in the second half. Darren Leonard scored his second goal to ensure Rathvilly won a fifth ever title by 3-4 to 0-8. For Nolan it was a heart-breaking defeat.
“I remember more about the first day than the second. It is one I try to forget,” he says.
TEAMS FOR REPLAYED 2002 FINAL
Rathvilly: Anthony Doyle; Kevin Byrne, Ciaran Doyle, John Bolger; Pat Molloy, John Keogh, Cathal Cole; Ken Doyle (0-1), Sean Kavanagh; JJ Smith, Tony Bolger (0-2), Derek O’Donoghue; David Nolan (0-1f), Darren Leonard (2-0), Francis Kelly. Subs: Daniel O’Brien (1-0) for Kelly, Mark Curran for Smith.
Palatine: Tom Nolan; Ken McDonald, Brian Farrell, Eddie McGarry; Liam Kenny, James Reid, Gavin Farrell; Joe Byrne, Alan Hosey; John Reid, John Kelly, Paul Reid, Damien McMahon (0-4,1f), Brian Kelly (0-3); Eoin McMahon (0-1 sl). Subs: Pakie O’Toole for J Kelly, Paud O’Dwyer for D. McMahon.
Referee: John Conway (Laois)