By Charlie Keegan
PALATINE and Rathvilly played out a thrilling draw in this final group game of the senior football championship at Netwatch Cullen Park on Sunday evening, a game that produced a Rathvilly goal reminiscent of Mikey Sheehy’s famous green flag for Kerry in the 1978 All-Ireland football final.
Palatine were leading 0-14 to 1-8 when their goalie Craig Kearney, having strayed a long way from his goal, was involved in outfield possession. But a few passes later Rathvilly turned the ball over and, with Kearney vainly seeking to make good his ground, Ed Finnegan calmly delivered a killer ball which hopped on the goal line before nestling in the Pal net.
Palatine full-forward Niall Reid put his side in front from open play but Conor O’Brien’s point, also from play, levelled matters for the fifth and final time in the game.
There was still time for more drama. Pal went in search of a winner, forced a free deep into the three minutes of injury time, some 35 metres from the Rathvilly goal and well to the left of the posts. Goalie Kearney, who had scored two superb first-half points from frees – one from a 45, the other a 45-metre free – had the pluck to put his mistake behind him. But his shot at glory drifted narrowly to the right of the Rathvilly posts and so the points were shared.
This was an absorbing game with both sides intent on victory – Rathvilly, with two previous wins, seeking to copper-fasten a semi-final spot and Palatine trying to bounce back after a loss to Bagenalstown Gaels. The upshot is that Rathvilly have secured a place in the last four while Palatine meet neighbours Tinryland in a quarter-final tie to whet the appetite.
Palatine had the better of the opening half but, having established an early 0-3 to 0-1 lead, were hit by a well-worked Rathvilly goal from left full-forward Kevin Murphy on nine minutes.
There was a serious battle for midfield superiority with the Pal pairing of Jack Brennan and Jason Kane pitted against Ed Finnegan and Conor Doyle, with neither side able to claim a clear advantage. But there was some fine fielding on both sides.
Another key battle was the clash of the two county seniors – Pal’s Conor Lawler and Brendan Murphy of Rathvilly. Both players contributed significantly, with Murphy hitting three superb points from play and Lawler providing some typical, inspirational driving runs out of defence over the course of the game.
There was nothing to choose between the sides on the scoreboard until the final minutes of the half when Pal corner forward Andrew Keogh hit a rich scoring vein, slotting three unanswered points from play before the break as the Kildare-border side led 0-10 to 1-4 at half time.
A pointed free from JJ Smith, followed by a superb Brendan Murphy point from play cut the leeway to a point and brought a response from Pal who hit back with a brace of points from Niall Reid and Tomás Kenny, to retain the status quo.
So the game progressed, score for score, with Palatine still a goal in front until the bizarre Ed Finnegan goal.
While Pal will feel they let this game slip they can console themselves by looking forward to the upcoming quarter-final clash. Meanwhile Rathvilly will be very satisfied to have emerged top of the group, unbeaten with wins over Bagenalstown Gaels and Mount Leinster Rangers, allied to Sunday’s draw.
Goalie Robbie Molloy, Conor O’Brien, Ed Finnegan, Conor Doyle, Alan Kelly, JJ Smith and their talisman Brendan Murphy were very much to the fore for Billy Sheehan’s men.
Palatine’s star players were Conor Lawler, David Reid, who did some outstanding fielding from second half Rathvilly kick-outs, Jack Brennan, Shane O’Neill, Jamie Kenny, Niall Reid and Andrew Keogh.
Rathvilly: Robbie Molloy; Keith Curran, Conor O’Brien (0-1), Jeff Worth; Jeffrey O’Donoghue, Wayne O’Donoghue, Josh Moore; Ed Finnegan (1-0), Conor Doyle (0-2, 0-1 free); Danny Molloy, Alan Kelly (0-1), Colin Byrne; JJ Smith (0-1 free), Brendan Murphy (0-3), Kevin Murphy (1-0). Subs: Tony Bolger for W O’Donoghue (24 mins); Gary Owens for D Molloy (42 mins): Senan Molly for Worth (42 mins); Darragh Murphy (0-1 free) for K Murphy (49 mins).
Palatine: Craig Kearney (0-2, 0-1 45, 0-1 free); Darragh Fitzpatrick, Stephen Reilly, Aidan Murphy (0-1); Conor O’Doherty, Conor Lawler, David Reid; Jack Brennan, Jason Kane; Tomás Kenny (0-1), Shane O ‘Neill, Jamie Kenny; Conor Reynolds, Niall Reid (0-3), Andrew Keogh (0-4, 0-1 free). Subs: Conor Crowley for Brennan (48 mins); Cathal O’Neill for S O’Neill (48 mins); Seán Dermody for Jamie Kenny (57 mins).
Referee: John Hickey (Fenagh).