Rathnew have captured their first Minor Football Championship in over 30 years as they overcame their longtime nemesis Baltinglass to secure a hard earned County final win.
Rathnew started like a juggernaut and led 3-02 to 0-00 in the opening ten minutes and Baltinglass looked like they were in for a very tough day at the office as Eoin Doyle, Ben Fee and Toby Curran each found the back of Baltinglass net after Ross Quinn and Eoin Doyle had fires over the first two points of the game.
To Baltinglass credit they didn’t hit the panic button and after 10 minutes Jack Hanlon pointed the first score for the western men from the placed ball to stem the early onslaught from the young Village men and Jamie Furlong followed up from a free immediately after to make it 3-02 to 0-02. Rathnew were not happy to let the foot off the gas pedal and Eoin Doyle took his tally to 1-2 midway through the first half with a well taken free but Baltinglass responded with their first major of the day through Tom Keogh to really ignite the Baltinglass challenge.
After leading by a whopping 11 points after just 7 minutes the Village men had seen their lead reduced significantly but still comfortably ahead on a 3-03 to 1-02 scoreline with 8 minutes left in the first half and Eoin Doyle extended the lead out to 8 points with another well taken free which was to be his sides last of the first half but Baltinglass were not going away and Adam Keogh pounced to give Baltinglass a vitally needed goal with halftime approaching which saw his side go in trailing 3-04 to 2-02 at the break and with the early nerves and cobwebs well and truly shaken.
What Rathnew could do in the opening 10 minutes of the first half Baltinglass could do in the second and Adam Keogh picked up where he left off in the first half with his second goal of the game and Baltinglass were looming large in the Rathnew rear view mirror and in a lightning blitz passed Rathnew out with just ten gone in the second half as Jack Kirwan and Jack Hanlon raised white flags before Tom Keogh raised a green flag and Rathnew were reeling and found themselves trailing for the first time in the game, 3-04 to 4-04!
It’s in the moments when things are not going your way that you find out who your leaders are and Rathnew had many to call on as Baltinglass had already shown to mount such a stunning fight back and with all seeming to go pear shaped for the Village men up stepped Reece Doyle with a Rathnew Goal to the delight of the village faithful and we had a level game, 4-04 to 4-04 with 13 minutes gone in the second half.
Eoin Doyle showed why he was among the top 10 scorers in the whole country in this years minor football championship as he fired Rathnew into the lead followed by points from Ross Quinn and William Moorehouse and another great score from play from Doyle to take his tally to an impressive 1-5 and Rathnew had once again built up a healthy lead, 4-08 to 4-04 with just ten minutes to play.
Baltinglass rallied again and it was Jamie Furlong who raised the white flag to leave just a goal between the sides in a game that had seen 8 goals in just 42 minutes of action, so the nerves were on edge that a goal could be leaked by either side and still 9 minutes of normal time to play. Furlong fired over yet again and the Rathnew lead was just two points with plenty of time left on the clock and the Rathnew faithful would have been forgiven for nibbling nails after the start Baltinglass had to the second half but the village men on the pitch stood strong and managed to keep the very capable Baltinglass attackers at bay and as Eoin Doyle raised the white flag deep in injury time to take his total to 1-6 and the Rathnew lead to a less edgy 3 points, the Village faithful new their young stars were on the cusp of taking home a first title in many years to Rathnew and take the title they did as the final whistle blew to the delight of all in red and green.
The two powerhouses of Wicklow Football look to have more than enough talent coming through to see them push for reclaiming the Miley Cup in the coming years and that must be a massively encouraging sign for all involved in both clubs. The work put in with these lads to bring them to the level and calibre of player is phenomenal and we salute every coach and all the parents who have nurtured these brilliant young ballers to the outstanding level they are at today and the levels they can hopefully achieve in the future at adult level.
On a side note it would be remiss of us not to mention Bray Emmets and Eire Og who gave today’s two sides some great battles in the group stages this year and we are all aware of the confusion that surrounded this grade. From our point of view we would have great sympathy with Eire Og and Bray Emmets who have wonderful young footballers too and the confusion caused by the misinformation given which was very damaging to those young players but the rules had been in place for score difference to come into effect at intercounty level and at club level. The correct rules were applied for the Minor grade but the communication that was given incorrectly was a big shame and caused false hope for some of our best young players and hopefully a serious lesson is learned. Nobody in any club would like to see our games being decided off the field and it was through no fault of any of the brilliant young players on show today that what happened did. We hope that all these great young players from every club in Wicklow will be donning the Blue & Gold for many years to come.