Carlow Senior Football Championship Final
Éire Óg 0-12
By Kieran Murphy
NEVER mind the quality. Never mind the entertainment. County finals are all about winning. Has any player or manager apologised for winning a bad game? So it was on Sunday where a pulsating last quarter atoned for what was a mediocre county final at Netwatch Cullen Park.
When Rathvilly’s Gary Dempsey pounced on an Éire Óg defensive error to shoot to the net after only 42 seconds, the die was cast. From then on it was a cautious encounter.
Only in the final 10 minutes, when they threw away those chains, did either side look as if they were willing to take a few risks. After that opening three-pointer, Rathvilly looked the most likely winners all the way through to injury time at the end of the game. Then they almost lost it.
Many of their players slumped to the ground when referee David Hughes blew the full-time whistle. In contrast, the Éire Óg boys skipped down the tunnel, gathered a few things and were back up in Teach Asca before the Rathvilly post-match team talk had ended..
After Dempsey’s goal, Brendan Murphy kicked two wides from scorable positions. Later in the half, he added to his wide total with another pot at goal which sailed just off target. It was Dempsey who landed a free to stretch the Rathvilly lead to four points on five minutes.
Eric McCormack registered Éire Óg’s first point on 12 minutes and it took another five minutes before he repeated the feat. The same player then passed to Eoghan Ruth who floated over. Darragh O’Brien landed the equaliser for Éire Óg who then proceeded to open the Rathvilly defence to let in McCormack. Robbie Molloy advanced to save a certain goal.
Alan Kelly and Darragh O’Brien exchanged points but Rathvilly had the last word of the half when Kelly scored a tremendous point from the 45 metre line.
Leading 1-3 to 0-5 at the interval, that inspirational score should have been the signal for Rathvilly to let rip.
Perhaps they tried. Dempsey pointed from out on the left on 32 minutes while JJ Smith saw another effort come off the woodwork. Éire Óg were hanging on. McCormack and Brian Murphy exchanged frees as the game remained in cautious mode. When Smith put over two points from play to extend the Rathvilly lead to four, the ball was back in their rivals hands. O’Brien converted a free. Derek Hayden broke around a defender on the left close to goal and settled for a point. In reply Alan Kelly availed of a patient build-up to restore Rathvilly’s three-point lead.
Brendan Murphy was getting little change around the middle of the field from a sticky Éire Óg defence. The Rathvilly body-language suggested they felt the big man was being fouled continuously but Éire Óg were not penalised. When the Wicklow-border side was finally awarded a free, the decision brought a derisive cheer from the Rathvilly support.
Murphy kept his cool but was seen to converse with David Hughes on more than one occasion. Rathvilly had their keeper to be thankful for when a Niall Quinlan free came back off the left-hand upright at the scoreboard end of the ground and the ball fell nicely for Derek Hayden. The Éire Óg man did everything right by picking his spot in the bottom right-hand corner. His joy turned to anguish as Molloy’s reflexive dive saved a certain goal.
With seven minutes to go Sean Gannon pointed to leave two between them. Niall Quinlan converted a free but then an Éire Óg pass out of defence was intercepted and Brian Murphy bore down on goal.
With Robbie Moore advancing the Rathvilly man settled for a point. In normal situations that should have been it. Éire Óg were happy to see Eoghan Ruth landing his second point of the game to keep them in it.
The sight of Sean Gannon conversing with David Hughes and clearly enquiring about time remaining was an indication Éire Óg were not panicking. They duly created yet more scoring chances. Another interchange of passes saw substitute Cormac Mullins take possession out on the left.
Bravely he took on the responsibility and stroked the ball over the bar. With almost the last throw of the dice for either side ,Mullins had an easier chance. This time he didn’t fully connect and Robbie Molloy comfortably gathered. That was it. They will have to do it all again on Sunday week.
Éire Óg: Robbie Moore; Fiach O’Toole, Mark Fitzgerald, Benny Kavanagh; Jordan Lowry, Paul McElligott, Marc Furey; Sean Gannon (0-1), Kelvin Chatten; Derek Hayden (0-1), Eric McCormack (0-3 frees), Eoghan Ruth (0-2); Darragh O’Brien (0-3, 0-2 frees), Chris Blake, Ross Dunphy. Subs: Cormac Mullins (0-1) for McCormack (41 mins), Niall Quinlan (0-1 free) for Blake (44 mins), Jordan Morrissey for O’Brien (54 mins).
Rathvilly: Robbie Molloy; Barry John Molloy, Conor O’Brien, Tony Bolger; Jeffrey O’Donoghue, Wayne O’Donoghue, Jim Bob Leonard; Brendan Murphy, Ken Doyle, Alan Kelly (0-3), Ed Finnegan, Robbie Ryan; Brian Murphy (0-2, 0-1 free), Gary Dempsey (1-2, 0-1 free), JJ. Smith (0-2). Subs: Danny Molloy for Ryan (44 mins), Colin Byrne for Leonard (47 mins), Brian Smith for Doyle (51 mins), Josh Moore for O’Donoghue (51 mins).
Referee: David Hughes (Erin’s Own).