Old Leighlin 1-10
By Kieran Murphy
THIS was a tough, uncompromising battle at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday. No quarter asked or given. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a battle which never failed to entertain.
Rathvilly’s dominant spell in the second quarter, when they fashioned a four-point lead, was pivotal. Their advantage went out to five points by the 47th minute but it was important for the winners to establish that early superiority.
A point inside a minute from Ed Finnegan got Rathvilly off to a great start. This was followed by an effort from Brendan Murphy after Old Leighlin coughed up two good chances. Murphy was superb all through and his performance answered those who sometimes suggest Rathvilly play better without him.
James Clarke in the Old Leighlin goal favours the short kick-out but he did kick long on a number of occasions. Pointedly, not into the space where Murphy operated. Ian Atkinson got Old Leighlin on the scoreboard five minutes in and David Bambrick equalised when the Rathvilly defence did well not to concede a goal.
The Old Leighlin defence were then opened up but the foot of the left hand upright at the Dublin Road goal denied Gary Dempsey. When the ball broke loose Danny Molloy settled for a point.
Both sides adapted similar tactics, preferring to put their passes together and bringing their attackers onto the ball coming from deep. Sticky defences coped well with the ploy and players like Gary Dempsey and JJ Smith for Rathvilly and Cathal Coughlan, Seamus Kinsella and Sean Bambrick for Old Leighlin had little time on the ball.
Of all the inside forwards Dempsey coped best with three points from play over the hour. His two points in the first half helped Rathvilly into a 0-8 to 0-5 interval lead.
Seamus Kinsella 34th minute point reduced the margin but a Brian Murphy free restored the three-point advantage. This was followed by a great point from his brother Brendan who found the posts from out on the right. Not to be outdone Dempsey slotted a tremendous effort and Rathvilly looked to be cruising.
The teams added two points each and with nine minutes left Rathvilly looked to have all but secured their place in the decider. It didn’t help their cause at that point when Keith Curran picked up a second yellow card.
In his absence their defence was opened when David Bambrick stole in at the near post and planted the ball in the net.
With the announcement of six minutes’ injury time Old Leighlin had a life-line. Alan Kelly, who was lucky to be on the pitch after seven match officials didn’t spot his off the ball foul on Cathal Coughlan, produced a bit of trickery which yielded a JJ Smith point.
Wayne Donoghue saw black for a cynical foul and with the game in the melting pot Coughlan was dragged to the ground. Kinsella’s subsequent free flew over the bar. Rathvilly survived.
Rathvilly: Robbie Molloy; James Leonard, Tony Bolger, Keith Curran; Jeffrey O’Donoghue, Wayne O’Donoghue, Colin Byrne; Brendan Murphy (0-3), Brian Murphy (0-5,4fs); Ken Doyle, Danny Molloy (0-1), Alan Kelly; Ed Finnegan (0-1), Gary Dempsey (0-3), JJ Smith (0-2,1f). Subs: Brian Smith for Doyle (51 mins), Kevin Byrne for Byrne (53 mins), Robbie Ryan for O’Donoghue (black card 61 mins).
Old Leighlin: James Clarke; Pauric Coughlan, Eamonn Fitzgerald, Ger Hickey; Declan Kelly, Niall Roche, Mark Brennan; Ian Atkinson (0-1), David Bambrick (1-2); Hugh Gahan, Michael Meaney (0-1, Moanmore), Willie Minchin (0-1); Cathal Coughlan, Seamus Kinsella (0-4,3fs), Sean Bambrick. Subs: Sean Kinsella (0-1) for Brennan (22 mins), Aaron Amond for Meaney (49 mins), Michael Meaney (Blackbush) for Kelly (64 mins).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Ballinkillen).