Mount Leinster Rangers 2-5
By Charlie Keegan
PALATINE made heavy weather of overcoming 14-man Mount Leinster Rangers at Netwatch Cullen Park in this opening round senior championship tie and it was only in the final 15 milnutes that the Kildare-border side imposed their will on the game.
Rangers hit the front within 15 seconds of the throw-in, the ball being cleverly worked into corner forward Chris Nolan who sent a searing shot to the far corner of the net.
The south county side were the better team for the greater part of the opening half, showing greater appetite for work than opponents who were lacklustre and sloppy in much of their play.
Pal responded with points from Niall Reid and Conor Reynolds before Chris Nolan kicked a point from play for Rangers. With the men in black and red leading 1-2 to 0-3 after 16 minutes, Ted Joyce, who had earlier posted a lovely long-range point, showed the vulnerability in the Palatine defence when he soloed clean through the heart of their backline to crack home a wonderful goal.
Pal now woke up to the scale of the challenge they faced. Conor Reynolds and Shane O’Neill from a free reduced the arrears but there was no great fluency in their play. Rangers were strong and competitive and there was not a great cutting edge in the Pal attack, who brought senior county player Ciarán Moran into the game on 28 minutes as they sought to inject greater urgency into their play.
Rangers deservedly led 2-3 to 0-6 at half time but found themselves under serious pressure for much of the second half. They had to defend in-depth and, after Pal had squandered good scoring chances through wild finishes, the southerners were reduced to 14 men when midfielder Diarmuid Byrne was issued with a second yellow card on 34 minutes.
The dismissal imposed even greater pressure on a Rangers side, now finding themselves pinned in their own half on occasions, with few options. Palatine eventually reduced the leeway with a splendid point from play by midfielder Jason Kane to open the second-half scoring.
Slowly, Cnoc Árd turned the screw, even though their finishing remained an issue – they kicked 13 wides (5, 8) – and missed some gilt-edged chances to find the Rangers net.
Eventually they drew level (0-9 to 2-3) on 44 minutes courtesy of a Shane O’Neill free and four minutes later took the lead when Ciarán Moran placed full back Stephen Reilly, who had ventured upfield, and he kicked a superb point from some 50 metres..
The influence and experience of Palatine’s two county men – Conor Lawler and Ciarán Moran – became evident in the final stages as Pal enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but were unable to kill off the Rangers challenge by virtue of faulty finishing.
Jon Nolan recorded Rangers first score of the second half on 54 minutes, a point out of play and when Chris Nolan pointed a free, the Palatine lead was down to a single point and Rangers sensed they still had a genuine chance in the game.
But the last three points fell to Palatine through Niall Reid and a brace of Shane O’Neill points from frees.
None of their future opponents will take fright at this Palatine performance. They did improve considerably after the change of ends but significant improvement is needed if they are to have an extended championship run.
Palatine: Craig Kearney; Darragh Fitzpatrick, Stephen Reilly (0-1), Christopher Parle; Conor O’Doherty, Conor Lawler, David Reid; Jack Brennan, Jason Kane (0-2); Tomás Kenny, Shane O’Neill (0-5, frees), Gavin Healy; Conor Reynolds (0-2), Niall Reid (0-4), Cathal O’Neill (0-1). Subs: Ciarán Moran for Parle (28 mins); Andrew Keogh for C O’Neill (42 mins); Jamie Kenny for Healy (42 mins); Darren Reid for Reynolds (58mins); Cathal O’Neill for Brennan (injured, 60 mins)
Mt Leinster Rangers: Thomas Brennan; Michael Malone, Richard Coady, MJ Doran; Kevin McDonald, Willie Hickey, Conor Fenlon; Jack Murphy, Diarmuid Byrne; Jon Nolan (0-1), Ted Joyce (1-1), Michael Doyle; John Coady, Edward Byrne, Chris Nolan (1-3, 0-1 free). Subs: Tony Lawler for Malone (35 mins); Gary Lawler for E Byrne (39 mins); Derek Byrne for J Coady (49 mins); Edward Byrne for Doyle (61 mins).
Referee: Pat Kehoe (Rathvilly)