Éire Óg 0-13
By Kieran Murphy
FOR this time of the year and the cold night that was in it, the senior football league Division 1 tie at Pairc Ui Bhriain was played at a fast pace and proved to be a thoroughly entertaining encounter.
Under new manager Shane McCormack, the visitors were hoping to lay a marker and in the process let the county champions know Rathvilly mean business this year.
At the end of the game it was as you were; Éire Óg rolling with the punches and emerging with a hard-earned victory.
For most of the first half they held the upper hand. Cormac Mullins was on fire registering five points of the YI’s total of seven points. At one stage they led by five points and on 20 and 25 minutes they still had a four-point lead.
The Wicklow-border side enjoyed a tremendous last few minutes of the half where they seemed to go up a gear and had Éire Óg in big trouble. Their goal came when a high ball was not dealt with by the Éire Óg defence and while it was difficult to say who got the decisive touch, Gary Dempsey was most likely the last Rathvilly player to get a telling hand on the ball before Johnny Furey tried to claw the ball to safety.
From the kick-out Rathvilly came again and Danny Molloy drilled over a point to level the game 0-7 to 1-4 at the break.
A 31st minute free from Chris Blake nudged Éire Óg back in front again and the relatively large crowd braced itself for a head-to-head confrontation.
It never really happened. Yes, some of the tackling was tough (but fair). Nobody got too riled up with the ball very much the focus of everyone’s attention. The home side have buckets of confidence at this stage and two frees from Blake and a typical Eoghan Ruth point stretched the lead out to four points.
Rathvilly registered seven wides over the entire game. The second half was particularly frustrating for them where they failed to convert their possession into scores or even goal chances.
Gary Dempsey and JJ Smith were their only scorers of the second half and they came in the final quarter. When it mattered Éire Óg were able to go down the field and pick up the insurance point through a Blake effort from play.
A win for the champions in the end but neither side will read too much into it. Nevertheless when push came to shove Éire Óg had a bit more so Rathvilly will look forward to the return of Brendan Murphy as the season unwinds.
Éire Óg: Johnny Furey; Lee Moore, Mark Fitzgerald, Benny Kavanagh; Jordan Lowry, Mark Furey, Paul McElligott; Kelvin Chatten, Eoghan Ruth (0-1); Derek Hayden (0-1), Adam Murphy, James Brennan; Cormac Mullins (0-5), Chris Blake (0-4, 0-3 frees), Ross Dunphy (0-2). Subs: Sean Gannon for Murphy (43 mins), Recce Denieffe for Brennan (47 mins), Cathal Kelly for Hayden (52 mins), Diarmuid Ruth for Dunphy (60 mins).
Rathvilly: Robbie Molloy; Jeff Worth, Jeffrey O’Donoghue, Ryan Sibbald; Danny Molloy (0-1), Colin Byrne, Robbie Ryan; Ed Finnegan, Brian Murphy; Jake Elliot, Alan Kelly, Kevin Murphy; JJ Smith (0-2), Gary Dempsey (1-3, 0-1 free), Gary Owens. Subs: Barry John Molloy for Worth (24 mins), Josh Moore for Elliot, Conor Doyle for Ryan (both 38 mins).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Ballinkillen)