Duffy frees Pat’s from six-year wait for senior football championship

St. Pat’s 0-10

Rathnew 0-08

St. Pat’s have ended their six-year senior football championship drought after seven Stephen Duffy frees sent them on their way to beating defending champions Rathnew in Aughrim on Saturday afternoon.

It took Duffy’s composure from set-pieces, as well as inspired performances from the likes of Conor Ffrench, Dean Healy, Padge McWalter and Paul O’Brien, for Casey O’Brien’s men to come away from the Joule Park replay with their first title since 2012.

Pat’s full-back Shane Murley earned his side a replay with a late point two weeks ago, with both sides looking to win the replay in regulation time knowing that Offaly champions Rhode were waiting for the winner less than 24 hours later.

JT Moorehouse got Rathnew’s first score of the game, before a powerful individual run from Dean Healy set Stephen Duffy up for his first point from the game’s first free.

Another Duffy free put Pat’s in front, before a pair of Leighton Glynn points — followed by points from Mark Doyle and Nicky Mernagh — gave the Villagemen a three point advantage. Duffy pointed another free before Colm Byrne denied Mark Doyle a goal.

Into the second-half, and points from Mark Doyle (free) and Eddie Doyle threatened to put the game beyond Pat’s. However, a series of frees from Stephen Duffy reduced the deficit to a minimum, before Tommy Kelly drew the two sides going into injury-time, setting the stage for Stephen Duffy and Tommy Kelly to claim the championship for the Wicklow Town men.

The wind-swept conditions in Aughrim on Saturday was never going to lend itself for a high-scoring game, as was the case for much of the championship final replay between Pat’s and Rathnew as neither side found themselves capable to separating themselves from the other team.

The first half-chance of the game came three minutes in, when a ball over the top presented Warren Kavanagh the opportunity to forge a goal-scoring chance for Rathnew, only for Padge McWalter to step with a brilliant tackle to deny him.

Two minutes later, Rathnew did find themselves in front with the first score of the game and it was a good one, as JT Moorehouse collected the ball wide on the right-hand side and split the posts with a cracker of a strike.

It did not take long for Pat’s to respond, as captain Dean Healy — who had yet another enthralling duel with Rathnew’s James Stafford all afternoon — forced his way past three Village players before being hauled to the ground. This presented Stephen Duffy with the chance to level the game with his first free of the game.

Pat’s would find themselves in front two minutes later through another Duffy free after Healy was fouled once again, this time by Ross O’Brien.

While Pat’s looked to rely on Duffy’s set-pieces for most of their scores, Rathnew had no problems notching from play. Leighton Glynn — who was responsible for everything good Rathnew produced on the day — pointed twice, before working the ball onto Mark Doyle to score and give Rathnew a two-point advantage. That was followed by a great score from Nicky Mernagh wide on the right to expand that lead to three.

That was reduced to two following yet another Stephen Duffy free, before Colm Byrne denied Rathnew their first goal after Ross O’Brien dropped a ball into the Pat’s square for Mark Doyle to collect and strike for goal, only for Byrne to step-in and make the save.

While Pat’s would have been delighted at Byrne’s intervention, disaster struck three minutes later when half-back Simon Bouchier went up for a high-ball and came down awkwardly on his right knee, which forced Pat’s into their first change of the game as Patrick O’Keane replaced Bouchier with three minutes left in the first-half.

The usually reliable Jody Merrigan — who was occupied by the outstanding Conor Ffrench and John Crowe all afternoon — fell victime to the swirling wind by missing a 45 as Rathnew went into half-time with a slender 0-05 to 0-03 lead at half-time.

If the first-half was somewhat of a pedestrian affair with both sides hampered by windy conditions, the second-half was anything but, with a final 10 minutes to rival many other games you are likely to see.

Rathnew commenced the second period in much the same way that they ended the first, with Mark Doyle slotting a free three minutes after the restart. Leighton Glynn continued to dominate proceedings as Pat’s made their second change of the game, bringing Ciaran McGettigan in for the largely struggling Jonathan Delahunt.

Eddie Doyle extended Harry Murphy’s side’s lead to four at 0-07 to 0-04 two minutes later, before Pat’s finally got their first score of the second-half through, predictably, a Stephen Duffy free going into the final quarter of an hour. Duffy slotted his fifth free a minute later, before notching his sixth to reduce the deficit to just one point after Dean Healy was fouled yet again, this time by James Stafford.

Mark Doyle put Rathnew back into a two-point lead but the Pat’s turn around seemed inevitable, as the experienced Rathnew side appeared to be tiring while the introduction of Ciaran McGettigan added an extra source of pace and energy in a youthful Pat’s team.

As the game approached the final four minutes, another Duffy free reduced the Rathnew lead to a single point after McGettigan was brought down following a powerful run through midfield, befor the game was turned on its head by the sending off of Mark Doyle for two bookings, reducing Rathnew to 14-men — setting the stage for a quite astonishing end.

As the game ticked into four minutes of added time at the very end of the game, Tommy Kelly finally got Pats’ first score from play to draw the two sides level. Collecting the ball wide on the left from the tireless Paul O’Brien, Kelly quickly turned inside and curled a beauty of a strike over the defending champions bar, sending the Pat’s faithful absolutely wild.

There was turning back for a Rathnew side running on fumes after a draining championship campaign, as Duffy excellently side=stepped his way into position to get his first score from play to put his team in front three minutes into added-time.

James Stafford put a vital chance wide, before Tommy Kelly went up the other end to get his second of the day to seal his side’s 13th title and first in six years.

St. Pat’s: C. Byrne; C. Doyle, S. Murley, W. Doyle; S. Bouchier, C. Ffrench, J. Crowe; D. Healy (c), J. Delahunt; J. Petticrew, P. McWalter, P. Earls; S. Duffy, P. O’Brien, T. Kelly.

Replacements: P. O’Keane (for S. Bouchier), C. McGettigan (for J. Delahunt).

Scorers: S. Duffy (0-08, 0-07f), T. Kelly (0-02).

Rathnew: P. Dignam; P. Merrigan, D. Power, J. Snell; JT Moorehouse, R. O’Brien, W. Kavanagh; J. Stafford, T. Smyth; E. Doyle (c), J. Merrigan, G. Merrigan; N. Mernagh, M. Doyle, L. Glynn.

Replacements: S. Byrne (for J. Merrigan).

Scorers: M. Doyle (0-03, 0-02f), L. Glynn (0-02), N. Mernagh (0-01), E. Doyle (0-01), JT Moorehouse (0-01).


WicklowNews Player of the Match: Stephen Duffy.

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