By Charlie Keegan
PATRONS got full value for money at the Bennekerry grounds on Friday night when visitors Rathvilly went home with both league points after an exciting, competitive game. The east county side were the dominant team for the greater part but they were hit by a five-minute Palatine scoring blitz just after half time which made a real game of this opening round league tie.
Rathvilly bossed the opening half, playing a simple, direct brand of football which produced some excellent scores. Palatine, by comparison, engaged in slow-build-up play in attack which cut little ice against a vigilant Rathvilly defence, who counter-attacked to great effect throughout the half.
A point from play by midfielder Brian Murphy was balanced by a pointed free from Pal captain Shane O’Neill in the early stages before Jamie Kenny gave Cnoc Árd the lead for the only time with a white flag from play.
Rathvilly then took control, winning midfield where Brian Murphy and Ed Finnegan were dominant and, ably assisted by the experienced Alan Kelly, JJ Smith and Gary Dempsey in attack, the men in green and gold landed some commendable scores. Brian Murphy led the way, kicking a total of 1-3 in the half, vital scores in the overall context of the game.
On 21 minutes Murphy scored a well-taken goal after he soloed unopposed through the home defence before rifling the ball past goalkeeper Luke Hickey. That score put the visitors into a commanding 1-6 to 0-2 lead. Before the break JJ Smith provided a pin-point pass to Gary Dempsey for a well-worked point. In first-half injury time Palatine broke a 24-minute barren spell with an excellent point from Conor Reynolds.
A 1-7 to 0-3 half-time lead for Rathvilly looked an eminently safe margin.
But in five blistering minutes immediately after half time, Pal all but wiped out the seven-point deficit. Shane O’Neill kicked a brace of frees and in the 33rdminute a ball from Conor Reynolds was held by Rathvilly goalie Michael Byrne, but when Lee Gordon advanced, the goalkeeper was adjudged to have gone behind his own goal line.
A Thomas Kenny point from play followed and, with the momentum now entirely with the home side, they were level on 43 minutes when corner back Darragh Fitzpatrick joined the attack to point splendidly from play. The sides were now level.
But Rathvilly dug in, got their game back on course and retook the lead through a Kieran Murphy point from play.
The game swung from end to end but the crucial, deciding score came from substitute Brian Smith on 49 minutes. A four-point gap now separated the teams and despite both sides creating good goal chances, time ran out on Pal despite a run of late pointed frees from Shane O’Neill.
Rathvilly: M Byrne; S Molloy, G Donoghue, R Sibbald; D Molloy, C Byrne, G Worth; B Murphy (1-3), E Finnegan; R Ryan (0-1), A Kelly (0-1), K Murphy (0-2); JJ Smith, G Dempsey (0-2, 0-1 free), G Owens. Subs: B Smith (1-0) for Owens (40 mins); J Elliott for Ryan (47 mins)
Palatine: L Hickey; D Fitzpatrick (0-1), L Carroll, C Parle; C Doherty, A Murphy, J Brennan; S O’Neill (0-6, frees), S Kane; S Dermody, T Kenny (0-1), J Kenny (0-1); C Reynolds (0-1), D Reid, L Gordon (0-1). Subs: D Reid for Kane (39 mins); S Reilly for Doherty (41 mins); C Duff for Gordon (49 mins); D Carroll for Dermody (52 mins); D Moran for Brennan (55 mins).
Referee: John Hickey (Fenagh)