Mount Leinster Rangers 1-11
By Kieran Murphy
THIS senior football championship semi-final was the kind of game which previous Palatine sides would probably have lost. Once upon a time their discipline was fragile. They knew it themselves. They either had to roll with the punches or learn to live with it.
In this Netwatch Cullen Park encounter on Saturday they were prodded by a Mount Leinster Rangers side who played it close to the edge and a little over it. While much of the Rangers tackling was hard, there were other incidences where it was late and dangerous.
Ironically it was the champions who finished with 14 players when Stephen Reilly received two yellow cards. Full-back Conor Lawler was also lucky to see only yellow when it could have been more.
Winning manager Mick Lillis shrugged off suggestions that his side had been targeted by the Rangers team.
“They are physical. Big strong men. I don’t have a problem with that. It is up to use to counteract what they bring to the table and the referee is there to decide what is fair and what is not fair.”
Counteract the reigning champions they did. Even though Denis Murphy opened the scoring with a free, Rangers struggled in the first half. The challengers were hit with a sucker of a goal when Ciaran Moran kept the ball in play when guiding it back across the square. Conor O’Doherty was credited with the goal as several pairs of hands grappled for possession.
Shane O’Neill’s accuracy from frees was crucial for Palatine while John Reid availed of a patient build-up to land a point. Palatine mixed their tactics well and this was exemplified when Tomás Kenny ran unopposed through the Rangers defence to find the posts.
Rangers never got going in the half. They might have if Craig Kearney hadn’t saved from Eddie Byrne when the Rangers midfielder looked odds on to find the net on seven minutes. John Reid was unlucky to see his effort come back off the upright. Ahead 1-7 to 0-3 at the interval Palatine looked comfortable.
A 31stminute Eddie Byrne free kick-started the comeback. Then John Coady was on the end of a good passing movement to steer the ball with his hands into the Palatine net. Another Byrne free narrowed the gap to two points.
Palatine looked to have reasserted themselves when Tomás Kenny converted a penalty after Niall Reid was upended. Incredibly, Rangers scored the next five points. Chris Nolan was on target twice while Jack Murphy, Diarmuid Byrne and Ted Joyce all found the posts.
Palatine showed their experience. John Reid pointed and then drew a free which Conor Crowley converted. In an excruciatingly tight finish Denis Murphy landed a free but Crowley had the last word with another from play. Palatine just about made it into their second decider.
“We dug out a result when our backs were to the wall. That is always a good sign. We are happy to be in a county final,” said Lillis.
Palatine: Craig Kearney; Conor O’Doherty (1-0), Conor Lawlor, Mark Rennick; Stephen Reilly, Christopher Crowley, Jack Brennan; David Reid, Jason Kane (0-2); Niall Reid, Ciaran Moran, John Reid (0-2); Jamie Kenny, Tomás Kenny (1-1, 1-0 pen), Shane O’Neill (0-3fs). Subs: Paul Reid for T. Kenny (47 mins), Conor Crowley (0-2,1f) for O’Neill (59 mins).
Mount Leinster Rangers: Thomas Brennan; Padraig Nolan, Richard Coady, Kevin McDonald; Brian Nolan, David Phelan, Gary Kelly (0-1); Denis Roche, Edward Byrne (0-3fs); Jack Murphy (0-1), Denis Murphy (0-2fs), Willie Hickey; Paul Coady, Diarmuid Byrne (0-1), Chris Nolan (0-2). John Coady (1-0) for Roche (h/t), Padraig Bambrick for McDonald (43 mins), Ted Joyce (0-1) for B. Nolan (50 mins).
Referee: John Hickey (Fenagh).