Of the many teams who fell at their feet during those hectic weekends last October and November, few had succeeded in drawing sweat from the brow of Maurice Fitzgerald’s outfit. Castleisland Desmonds, yes, but aside from that close run county semi-final, who else? Spa? Tipperary’s Upperchurch-Drombane? Sporadic were the inquests of the latter pair; the outcome of the respective ties never truly in doubt.
Ratoath, though, would be different.
Here was a team with six starting members to wear the Meath jersey at senior level, here was a team similarly comfortable in their run to provincial glory. Yes, this would be St Marys’ litmus test. And you know what, such talk didn’t seem so foolhardy when Bryan McMahon, a Meath panellist last year, struck their opening point after a mere 15 seconds, Bryan Sheehan shipping a heavy challenge in the process. These Meath men meant business.
Unfortunately for them, so too did St Mary’s who quickly asserted a vice-like grip on this All-Ireland semi-final. Seán Cournane and Sheehan (both frees) opened the account of the Kerry champions and it was immediately evident that the St Mary’s forwards had that yard of pace on their direct opponent.
Paul O’Donoghue and McMahon traded points in the ensuing passages, but it didn’t take long for this contest to unravel.
Conor Quirke, Liam Sheehan and the excellent Conor O’Shea drew the blinds on the Ratoath forward six, Bryan Sheehan and Denis Daly pulled the strings at midfield and such was the quality of ball being fed into Paul O’Donoghue, Cournane and Daniel Daly, all that was required inside was the finishing touch.
In this department, they were simply awesome – St Marys’ first wide arriving 23 minutes into the first-half. By that juncture, it was already game over; the Kerry club ahead by 1-9 to 0-3.
Four on the trot from O’Shea, O’Donoghue, Cournane and Sheehan (free) preceded their opening major; a string of intricate passes between Anthony Cournane, Denis Daly and Seán Cournane ending with the latter fisting the ball beyond Ratoath ‘keeper Shane Duffy.
Goal number two arrived on 26 minutes, the sharpness of mind and foot from Anthony Cournane and Sheehan presenting Niall O’Driscoll with the simplest of finishes.
Their opening half bordered on perfection and little surprise then that the players were greeted to a standing ovation as they returned back down the tunnel at half-time – the scoreboard reading 2-10 to 0-4 in their favour.
Ratoath’s afternoon went from miserable to deplorable shortly after the change of ends, team captain Bobby O’Brien receiving his marching orders for a second bookable offence. Two scores they managed in the entire second-half, the first of which arrived seven minutes from the end, Bryan McMahon again the contributor. Cian O’Brien bagged a scrappy goal on 58 minutes.
The winners, while not as intense or forceful in the second-half, still found it relatively easy to punch holes in the opposition defence; Denis Daly picking off three second-half points from play.
So, with Templenoe doing the business down the road in Kilmallock, two Kerry club teams will hit for Croke Park on the first weekend of next month for the sixth time in the short history of these competitions.
B Sheehan (0-7, 0-7 frees); S Cournane (1-4, 0-3 frees); P O’Donoghue (0-4); D Daly (0-3); C O’Shea (0-2).
C O’Brien (1-0); B McMahon (0-3, 0-2 frees); C Rooney (0-1 free), E Wallace (0-1).
A Constable; B Curran, Daniel O’Sullivan, I Casey; C Quirke, L Sheehan, C O’Shea; B Sheehan, Denis Daly; P O’Donoghue, N O’Driscoll, A Walsh; S Cournane, Daniel Daly, A Cournane.
D Casey for O’Donoghue (51 mins), L O’Connell for L Sheehan (55), D Keating for O’Driscoll (56), P Cournane for Daniel O’Sullivan (60), Darragh O’Sullivan for S Cournane (60).
S Duffy; G McGowan, C McGill, P Flaherty; B O’Connor, B Power, E Boyle; C O’Brien, B O’Brien; E Wallace, K McCabe, B McMahon; C Rooney, G Rooney, J Wallace.
D McGill for Flaherty (14 mins), D Kelly for G Rooney (27 mins), F Coyne for C Rooney (39), B Daly for Power (49), M Daly for McCabe (49), J McGowan for O’Connor (54).
L Devenney (Mayo).