By Kieran Murphy
THERE are games and then there are games. Scoring may have been low but these two sides served up a fascinating contest which was probably akin to two wily chess masters coming face to face in an intriguing contest.
Because of the low-scoring there will be those who will dismiss the combined efforts of both sides in this senior football championship semi-final but no-one left Netwatch Cullen Park on Saturday a moment early.
With five minutes to go Palatine had ground out a four-point lead but points from a Darragh Murphy 45 and another effort from Gary Dempsey meant Rathvilly could have stolen the game with a goal.
They looked as if they could have got it too but Palatine won crucial ball in their own small square in the fourth minute of injury time. For those not acquainted with the game of chess a player must make so many moves in a given period of time. The Wicklow-border team just fell short and the clock came down on their entire season.
It was a low scoring first half. Players on both sides were happy to play keep ball while probing carefully for an opening. On two minutes Andrew Kehoe put Palatine in front while at the scoreboard end of the ground Brendan Murphy, playing at full-forward, landed a wonderful point from way out on the left.
If anything, Rathvilly were a little bit more adventurous and why not. In playing long ball to their best-known player, Murphy scored four first-half points while JJ Smith accounted for their other score as they held a 0-5 to 0-4 lead at the interval.
Four minutes into the second half a bit of wizardry with the ball from David Reid on the right hand side of the field saw him transfer the direction of play to the far left where his pass picked out Shane O’Neill. He still had a bit to do but the centre-forward landed the equalising point. After that Conor Crowley, Jack Brennan and Kehoe registered three consecutive points for Palatine. On the other hand Rathvilly were guilty of careless shooting which ultimately undid them. Twelve wides in total told a tale in a game of this nature.
In contrast a wonderful Niall Reid pass picked out Jason Kane who picked off his second point of the game. Rathvilly’s hopes suffered a hammer blow as Murphy shipped an injury in an effort to deny Kane. It was a sorry sight to see him helped off the pitch in clear distress.
Palatine sensed it was going to be their night and some of their tackling and blocking was intense and soul destroying for the opposition.
In chess terms it was a question of executing a probing and decisive move. Neither side were able to do so. Instead a youthful Palatine side did enough to deny their opponents to run out deserving winners.
After all the talk earlier in the season about losing a number of players it is a wonderful achievement for the club to be back in a county final. It is all to play for now.
Palatine: Craig Kearney; Daragh Fitzpatrick, Stephen Reilly (0-1), Aidan Murphy; Conor O’Doherty, Conor Lawler, David Reid (0-1); Jack Brennan (0-1), Jason Kane (0-2); Tomas Kenny, Shane O’Neill (0-2, 0-1 free), Jamie Kenny; Andrew Kehoe (0-2, 0-1 free), Niall Reid, Conor Crowley (0-2). Subs: Gavin Healy for Reilly (h/t), Conor Reynolds for Kehoe (44 mins), Cathal O’Neill for J. Kenny (53 mins), Paul Reid for N. Reid (59 mins).
Rathvilly: Robbie Molloy; Keith Curran, Tony Bolger, Barry John Molloy; Jeffrey O’Donoghue, Colin Byrne, Josh Moore; Ed Finnegan, Conor Doyle; Ryan Sibbald, Alan Kelly, Robbie Ryan; JJ Smith (0-1), Brendan Murphy (0-4), Gary Dempsey (0-3 0-1 free). Subs: Brian Murphy for Sibbald (44 mins), Darragh Murphy (0-1, 45) for Brendan Murphy (44 mins), Conor O’Brien for Kelly (53 mins), Jake Elliott for Moore (59 mins).
Referee: David Hickey (Fenagh)