Bagenalstown Gaels 2-12
By Charlie Keegan
RATHVILLY’S Brendan Murphy was the dominant player of this opening round senior football championship tie at Netwatch Cullen Park on Friday evening, hitting a sensational 2-2 from play in the opening eight minutes, thus setting the north county side on the way to victory over Bagenalstown Gaels.
This was a maiden voyage for Gaels in the senior championship and they gave a good account of themselves after making a pretty disastrous start to the game.
Playing at full forward, Murphy’s ability to outfield any of the Gaels defenders deputised to mark him, was a major factor in both his goals scored after five and eight minutes. His first green flag was a cracking finish from just inside the large square after he had been supplied with an ideal high ball from centre forward Alan Kelly.
Three minutes later Kelly was again provider – this time Murphy fielded closer to goal, swivelled and sent a low shot to the corner of the net.
The Bagenalstown side scored some superb first-half points from play, the first five being shared among senior county panellist Jamie Clarke, Darren Crooks, Alan Beaton, David Kennedy and Shane Clarke. They did not shoot a wide until 27 minutes.
It was refreshing that the opening 10 scores of the game came from open play, Rathvilly full forward Gary Dempsey’s point from a placed ball on 25 minutes being the first flag from a free.
By half time Rathvilly led 2-5 to 0-6 but Gaels came out firing on all cylinders. From the throw-in they gained possession, moved to attack and finished with a goal from left full-forward Liam Galway with a double handed finish from close range. Jamie Clarke picked off a fine point from play and suddenly there was only a point between the teams.
Brendan Murphy registered a fine point for Rathvilly before brother Brian raised a white flag from a free and further unanswered points from Gary Dempsey (free) and another superb point from play by Brendan Murphy saw Rathvilly restore their half time lead.
Alan Beaton and Gary Dempsey traded points and with Rathvilly 2-10 to 1-9 ahead, they were awarded a penalty as the game entered the final quarter for a foul in the small square on Danny Molloy. JJ Smith dispatched the penalty to the net.
In fairness to Gaels they continued to believe and in the latter stages were rewarded with a well-taken goal from substitute Andrew Beaton and some well-taken points as they reduced the leeway to five points by the end, with Rathvilly’s Alan Kelly finishing the scoring with a point out of play.
The greater experience of Rathvilly shone through in this game and they enjoyed the greater share of possession. The winners hit a commendable tally of 3-14 with a good spread of scorers but have Brendan Murphy to thank for that early scoring burst which provided Shane McCormack’s side with a cushion for the remainder of the game.
Brendan Murphy was the stand-out player in this game, the county senior star hitting 2-4 from play, all his scores being of high quality. Murphy’s scoring threat was only curtailed when he went to midfield, often turning up to help out in defence, in what was an outstanding overall performance.
Goalie Robbie Molloy was excellently fronted by the experienced Tony Bolger at full back while right half back Conor Doyle chipped in with three points, one from play and with Colin Byrne and Josh Moore completed a strong line. Brian Murphy, until injured in the second half, Ed Finnegan, Alan Kelly, Gary Dempsey and substitute Darragh Murphy, were others to leave an impression in a competent team performance.
Bagenalstown Gaels will take positives from this game. They were well served by defenders Thomas Maher, Martin Cummins, Barry Lambe, industrious midfielder John Doyle and his partner Shane Clarke, while Jamie Clarke led the attack with flair constantly taking on the Rathvilly defence and hitting 0-5, with Alan Beaton and Cian Doyle also seen to advantage.
Rathvilly: Robbie Molloy; Wayne O’Donohue, Tony Bolger, Jeff Worth; Conor Doyle (0-3, 0-2 frees), Colin Byrne, Josh Moore; Ed Finnegan, Brian Murphy (0-1); Danny Molloy, Alan Kelly (0-2), J J Smith (1-1, 1-0 pem); Robbie Ryan, Brendan Murphy (2-4), Gary Dempsey (0-3 frees). Subs: Darragh Murphy for Brian Murphy (injured, 40 mins); Conor O’Brien for O’Donohue (54 mins); Kevin Murphy for D Molloy (56 mins); Gary Owens for Dempsey (56 mins); Ryan Sibbald for Worth (59 mins)
Bagenalstown Gaels: Ciaran Cunningham; Jamie Whelan, Thomas Maher, Andrew Casey; Martin Cummins, Barry Lambe, David Kennedy (0-1); John Doyle, Shane Clarke (0-1); Alan Corcoran, Jamie Clarke (0-5, 0-2 frees), Alan Beaton (0-2); Darren Crooks (0-1), Cian Doyle (0-1), Liam Galway (1-0). Subs: Robbie Kane (0-1, free) for Whelan (35); Thomas McDonnell for Kennedy (51); Andrew Beaton (1-0) for A Beaton (56).
Referee: Jonathan Murphy (St Mullins)