Rathcline won the Intermediate Football Championship title for the third time in their history when they withstood a determined comeback by Killashee St Brigid’s in a scrappy final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Sunday last.
Played in difficult wet conditions, Rathcline laid the foundations for their eventual triumph by scoring a couple of crucial goals and appeared to be cruising when they established a commanding 2-4 to 0-1 lead with 20 minutes gone in the first half.
With James Carroll (winner of the man-of-the-match award) and the commanding Shane Donoghue (who was immense throughout the game) leading the charge in the half-back-line and Derek Casserly making his presence felt at centrefield, the attack received a great supply of the ball with Liam Connerton, Shane Kenny and James Hanley inflicting the damage.
The Killashee defence were split wide open on a few occasions with Connerton setting up Hanley for the first goal in the 7th minute while Ronan Clyne and Derek Casserly were involved in the slick move that sent Connerton racing through for the next goal in the 20th minute.
Just after the James Hanley goal, which was the opening score in the game, Shane Kenny landed a brilliant long range point and then defender James Carroll was left unchallenged as he surged forward to fire the ball over the bar.
Kenny then converted a free before Killashee got their first score in the 14th minute, from a Willie Skelly free, but back came Rathcline with a point from Hanley who slotted over a close range free awarded for a foul on Connerton.
But right throughout the first half Killashee were pressing the self destruct button by kicking wides (eight in total), which included a poor finish by Mark Rossiter in squandering a decent chance of a badly needed goal in the 19th minute.
Rathcline launched an immediate counter-attack with Liam Connerton shooting to the back of the net but the newly crowned Intermediate champions (previous winners in 2005) remarkably failed to score for another 31 minutes as St Brigid’s gradually awoke from their slumber.
Their enthusiastic supporters among the attendance who braved a miserable wet day watched on with some hope as the gap was closed with three points in a row through substitute Enda McKiernan, James Willis and Michael Farrell (free).
But in between Rathcline had a glorious chance to put the issue beyond all doubt when Liam Connerton set up Shane Casserly for another goal chance but the latter miskicked right in front of the posts when looking certain to finish the ball to the net.
Trailing by 2-4 to 0-4 at the break, Killashee were guilty of some more poor finishing before Willie Skelly converted a brace of frees in the 40th and 43rd minutes and soon after substitute Tony Dooner was dismissed for a black card offence after a short time on the pitch.
St Brigid’s could have done without that setback and after Alan Milton (who replaced Dooner) has a shot blocked down, another second half replacement Killian Lee shot wide.
County minor Lee, only recently back in action after injury, certainly improved matters for Killashee who pulled another point back when the accurate Willie Skelly fired over a well struck free.
But the pressure was eased on Rathcline, who finally brought their scoring famine to an end when James Hanley landed a vital free in the 51st minute, and they now led by four points, 2-5 to 0-7.
St Brigid’s, to their great credit, battled it out to the bitter end and late scores from Willie Skelly (free) and Darren Carberry reduced the deficit to just two points to ensure an exciting finish.
But in the end it was the lack of scoring power that cost Killashee so dearly and their title dream was eventually dashed when Shane Kenny put Shane Casserly through for a third Rathcline goal in stoppage time.
Gareth Johnston’s side can now look forward to a clash away against the Wexford or Louth champions in the quarter-final of the Leinster Intermediate Club on November 1st.
The gallant losers St Brigid’s, on the other hand, have the nice consolation of a trip to Europe to take on Amsterdam in the preliminary round of the Leinster Junior Club Championship on Saturday October 10th.
Apart from capturing the Gerry Hennessy Cup, Rathcline make their return to the senior grade where they believe that their club rightly belong and will savour this success.
RATHCLINE: Anthony Mulligan; Cathal Greene, Michael Morrissey, Blain Fallon; James Carroll (0-1), Shane Donoghue, Kevin Chapman; Derek Casserly, Barry Clarke; Shane Casserly (1-0), Ronan Clyne, David Rooney; James Hanley (1-2, points from frees), Liam Connerton (1-0), Shane Kenny (0-2, one free).
Subs:- Michael Hanley for C Greene (half-time); Kevin Hanley for B Clarke (43 mins); Kevin Sorohan for B Fallon (black card, 57 mins); Patrick Mullooly for J Hanley (stoppage time).
Blood Sub:- Gareth O’Reilly for D Casserly (second half).
KILLASHEE ST BRIGID’S: Pat Farrell; Keelan Cox, Gerard Evans, Darren Cosgrove; Francis Dolan, Johnny Casey, Enda McPartland; Ogie Campbell, Emmet Skelly; Willie Skelly (0-5, all frees), James Willis (0-1), Mark Rossiter; Darren Carberry (0-1), Michael Farrell (0-1, free), Shane Cosgrove.
Subs:- Enda McKiernan(0-1) for M Rossiter (21 mins); Killian Lee for F Dolan (half-time); Tony Dooner for O Campbell (41 mins); Mel Shanley for J Willis (45 mins); Alan Milton for T Dooner (black card, 46 mins); David O’Neill for E McPartland (58 mins).
Referee: Patrick Maguire (St Mary’s Granard).