Operating as an Intermediate club for the first time in their proud history after getting relegated from the top flight last year, Granard won their way through to the title decider thanks to a late, late goal from Fergus Kelly and it was no more than St. Mary’s deserved as they were unquestionably the better team.
Rathcline came into the Intermediate Championship semi-final at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park on Saturday evening last as the favourites to emerge victorious by virtue of finishing top of the table in the league stage but were unable to match the superior work-rate of a fitter looking Granard side who held a comfortable 1-8 to 0-7 lead midway through the second half.
But the Lanesboro outfit were thrown a lifeline in the 46th minute when Derek Casserly created the clear-cut opportunity for Liam Connerton to score a goal, only for St. Mary’s to hit back immediately with a brace of points through David Blessington and the excellent Liam Sullivan, the latter getting his third score of the game in the 49th minute.
That was really putting it up to Rathcline but they staged a determined comeback in the closing stages of the game, a dominant spell that yielded three points on the trot through Padraig Shanley (two frees) and Derek Casserly who landed a well struck effort in the 58th minute to leave the sides all square.
A draw was looking the likely outcome at this late stage but there was another dramatic twist as the game entered stoppage time and it ultimately decided the outcome. The ball broke loose in a goalmouth scramble with Rathcline making a frantic bid to clear the danger but Fergus Kelly got the vital touch to finish the ball to the net.
Thus Granard moved a step closer to making an immediate return to the Senior Championship. A number of players on the St. Mary’s team played well and particularly prominent throughout the game were Alan Neilon, Bernard Clyne, Thomas Gallagher and sharp attacker Liam Sullivan.
Rathcline’s tale of woe was complete when second half substitute Cathal Greene was sent-off with time almost up and it must be said that this was a disappointing display by the shannonsiders. Granard, on the other hand, can now look forward with confidence to the final against Cashel or Carrickedmond and are going well under the guidance of manager Gerry Cadden from Mullahoran.
At the end of a poor enough first half St. Mary’s held a slender 0-6 to 0-5 lead with their points coming from six different players – Bernard Clyne, Liam O’Rourke (free), Brian Sheridan, Liam Sullivan, James Hynes and Fergus Kelly.
The Rathcline scores in the first half were registered by Ryan Fallon (free) and a brace apiece from Conor Casey and Ronan Clyne (one free) and can rightly argue that they should have been awarded another point as Fallon looked to have shot over the bar in the 2nd minute but the umpires signalled a wide.
Granard made a great start to the second half when the lively Liam O’Rourke put James Hynes through for a well-taken goal with two minutes gone on the changeover but back came Rathcline with a point apiece from Ronan Clyne and substitute Padraig Shanley (free).
St. Mary’s regained their grip on the game with another point from the prominent roving defender Brian Sheridan and Liam Sullivan then raced through to blast the ball over the bar in the 44th minute when a goal was on.
Rathcline, to their credit, battled back and almost snatched a draw but their title hopes were eventually dashed by the Fergus Kelly goal.
GRANARD ST. MARY’S: Eoin Mallon; Vinny Nally, Thomas Gallagher, Brian Sheridan (0-2); Bernard Clyne (0-1), Stephen Lynch, Jody Connolly; Charlie Martin, Fergus Kelly (1-1); Michael Murray, Liam O’Rourke (0-1, free), Alan Neilon; Liam Sullivan (0-3), David Blessington (0-1), James Hynes (1-1).
Subs:- Timmy Jackson for M Murray (50 mins); David Hynes for L Sullivan (injured, 55 mins).
RATHCLINE: David Mulvihill; Kevin Connaughton, Kevin Chapman, James Carroll; Blaine Fallon, Michael Hanley, Shane Donoghue; Ronan Clyne (0-3, one free), Derek Casserly (0-1); Ryan Fallon (0-1, free), Aaron Madden, Shane Casserly; Liam Connerton (1-0), Conor Casey (0-2), Gareth Johnston.
Subs:- Padraig Shanley (0-3, all frees) for A Madden (half-time); Cathal Greene for K Connaughton (46 mins); Mel Shanley for R Fallon (46 mins); Rory Donnellan for G Johnston (50 mins).
Referee: Michael Farrell (Ballymahon).