A large crowd of Rathnew supporters gathered outside the main pavilion in Aughrim yesterday evening and hailed their lionhearts.
St Vincent’s (Dublin) 1-9
Perhaps some of them had shown belief in this team of dieards by lumping a few quid on them, when the going got tough early in the game.
The word among Rathnew punters, afterwards, was that the odds on them winning had drifted out to a whopping 66/1, after they fell 0-4 to 0-1 down to a side that had recently claimed a fourth Dublin title in five seasons.
“If you had a hard neck, you’d have won a few bob for yourself,” smiled Rathnew captain, Leighton Glynn.
Nobody outside of Rathnew gave the Wicklow kingpins a chance of taking down Brian Mullins’ men, who were apparently narrowing their focus on back-to-back provincial titles.
But in what will go down as one of the competition’s great upsets, the hosts conjured a most courageous display to progress. They’re still only through to a semi-final, against Moorefield, on November 26, and they’ll probably be underdogs for that game, too.
Yet, it seemed like a landmark occasion for the club, as players, officials, and supporters all celebrated together, afterwards, whooping and hollering, as the St Vincent’s players made their exit.
Glynn had a strong game, kicking two points and dropping deep into his own defence, at various stages, to keep the vaunted Vincent’s forward line in check.
Tomás Quinn struck 1-3, though only his goal came from open play. Dublin star, Diarmuid Connolly, didn’t score from play at all and was well-marshalled by Damien Power.
The real star of the game was James Stafford, who rose to the occasion in stunning style to seal the win. Rathnew outscored Vincent’s 1-3 to 0-0 from the 49th minute on, and former Wicklow midfielder, Stafford, scored 1-2 of that, including the game’s last three scores. He firstly levelled the game in the 53rd minute, with a clever, flicked point, then slotted a brilliant, 57th minute goal, and, finally, kicked the insurance score in injury-time.
The goal was the killer strike and was an absolute peach, as Stafford, who’d drifted into full-forward, caught Ross O’Brien’s long delivery one-handed and, in the same motion, got a left-footed shot away to the net.
“It’s a ploy we use,” said Glynn of the ‘big man at full-forward trick’. “If you ask teams in Wicklow, they’d tell you that. He’s 6’3”, a big man, can catch the ball one-handed no problem. As soon as I saw the ball going in, I said, ‘we’re going to get a goal here’. He’s done it so many times.”
Stafford couldn’t contain a smile afterwards, when recalling the strike that was heard all around the province.
“I’ve scored one or two goals over the years, in fairness, county finals, stuff like that,” said Stafford. “But they still have to be scored, don’t they? I was just thinking the same as anyone one really: ‘just rattle it in. If it comes off, it does, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t’.”
Glynn said the trick was not buying into the hype about Vincent’s beforehand.
“We’d had a good look at them and thought that, in Dublin, teams probably paid them a bit too much respect, played a bit too defensively,” said Glynn.
Yet, after falling behind early on, despite playing with the stiff wind, it didn’t look too good for Rathnew, who’d just about navigated the challenge of Louth’s Newtown Blues in the previous round.
The first shots of insurrection were fired-off approaching half-time, as Harry Murphy’s Rathnew outscored Vinnies by 0-6 to 0-2, to take a one-point lead at the interval.
They would twice stretch that lead to three points in the third-quarter of the game, with Glynn and the excellent Mark Doyle splitting the posts.
Rathnew, champions in 2001, were briefly railroaded by 1-2 without reply, from Vincent’s, including a well-worked goal by Tomas Quinn, who palmed in after some hard running by Gavin Burke and Enda Varley. But Vincent’s, who led by two at that stage, didn’t score again. Stafford left all of the Dubliners’ big-name players in the shade with his late cameo, etching his name in local folklore.
J. Stafford (1-2); M. Doyle (0-4, 3 frees); E. Doyle (0-3, 2 frees); L. Glynn (0-2); P. Merrigan and R O’Brien (0-1 each).
St Vincent’s scorers:
T. Quinn (1-3, 2 frees, 1 ‘45); E. Varley (0-2); G. Burke, S. Carthy, D. Connolly (1 free) and R. Trainor (0-1 each).
P. Dignam; P. Merrigan, D. Power, J. Snell; E. Glynn, R. O’Brien, W. Kavanagh; J. Stafford, T. Smith; G. Merrigan, L. Glynn (c), D Staunton; E. Doyle, M. Doyle, S. Byrne.
J. Manley for Staunton (52); G. Byrne for S Byrne (57).
M. Savage; M. Concarr, J. Curley, C. Wilson; F. Breathnach, G. Brennan, L. Sheehy; L. Galvin, D. Murphy; G. Burke, S. Carthy, Cormac Diamond; E. Varley, D. Connolly (c), T. Quinn.
E. Fennell for Galvin (36); R. Trainor for Cormac Diamond (40); J. McCusker for Brennan (44); J. Feeney for Murphy (52); Tiernan Diamond for Burke (61).
D. Gough (Meath).
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