Bagenalstown Gaels 3-8
Mount Leinster Rangers 1-12
By Kieran Murphy
THIS was a blood-and-thunder senior football championship tie at Spellman Park on Sunday where the newly formed Bagenalstown Gaels marched into the knock-out stages of the competition with about as much to spare as the scoreline suggests.
As it turned out, with Palatine and Rathvilly drawing in Netwatch Cullen Park, whichever side won here was going to the quarter-finals. The nature of the exchanges was a clear indication of what was at stake and Rangers would have to admit they played it as close to the edge as they possibly could in an effort to upset the Gaels.
The Borris side got off to a great start when Kevin McDonald seized possession from the throw-in, drove forward and fired the ball over the bar. Jamie Clarke equalised on five minutes when he exchanged passes with John Doyle and confidently completed the move.
Conor Fenlon, who would go on to score three points from play, nudged Rangers in front once again and this time Andrew Beaton replied for the eventual winners.
In a statement of Rangers’ intent, Derek Byrne in a matter of seconds twice lunged at a Bagenalstown ball carrier. While he didn’t make proper contact there was a menace in the tackle. Instead it was his colleague, Diarmuid Byrne, who was pinged by All-Ireland minor hurling final referee Patrick Murphy, who may have been unsighted in relation to the initial tackles.
Despite the closeness of the exchanges, play swung up and down the field. At half-time Bagenalstown led by 1-7 to 0-7 with Liam Galway scoring from close range after Shane Clarke ran at the defence and off-loaded to the corner forward on 22 minutes.
Bagenalstown scored a goal within seconds of the restart when Galway turned provider and this time Andrew Beaton netted from close range.
Rangers are mentally strong and they replied with points from Eddie Byrne and McDonald. A point from Thomas Maher suggested Bagenalstown had that little bit more in reserve.
As it turned out they needed to call on all their resources. Yet Rangers were lucky not to lose Diarmuid Byrne when he went in high and dangerous, scything the hard-running Jamie Clarke to the ground. The stricken player needed lengthy attention and the yellow card produced drew jeers of derision from Bagenalstown supporters behind the wire.
Then brothers Chris and Jon Nolan charged into Shane Clarke. There was no effort to play the ball and the tackle was late. Again both players remained on the field. They were blessed.
Going into the last 10 minutes, Bagenalstown scored their third goal. Ironically there could have been a case made for a foul on Richard Coady when he tried to gather possession as Jamie Clarke picked up the loose ball. Clarke had only one thing on his mind as he drove through to finish to the Rangers net. There are no TMOs in Spellman Park so the goal stood.
Rangers came back strongly once more and Diarmuid Byrne scored a 56th minute goal to resurrect their challenge. They applied the pressure all the way to the final whistle and just came up short.
Bagenalstown had John Doyle to thank when he seized on a loose ball which could have gone anywhere. The right man had it. Making space and time for himself he made good use of the ball and Bagenalstown advanced.
Bagenalstown Gaels: Ciaran Cunningham; Thomas Maher (0-1), Andrew Casey, Thomas McDonnell; Danny Doyle, Alan Corcoran, Shane Clarke; John Doyle, David Kennedy; Andrew Beaton (1-3), Jamie Clarke (1-3, 0-1 free), Alan Beaton (0-1); Robbie Kane (0-1), Cian Doyle, Liam Galway (1-0). Subs: Darren Crooks for Kane (h/t), Jamie Whelan for McDonnell (37 mins).
Mount Leinster Rangers: Thomas Brennan; Michael Malone, John Coady, MJ Doran; Michael Doyle, Richard Coady, Conor Fenlon (0-3); Diarmuid Byrne (1-1), Kevin McDonald (0-2); Jon Nolan (0-1), Willie Hickey, Derek Byrne (0-1); Ted Joyce (0-1), Eddie Byrne (0-1), Chris Nolan (0-2 frees). Subs: Paul Coady for Derek Byrne (h/t), Gary Lawlor for Doran (46 mins), Dean Grennan for J Nolan, Luke Roche for Joyce (52 mins), Derek Byrne for Lawlor (59 mins).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Ballinkillen)