A highly impressive Raheens minor side brought home their first Manguard Plus Minor A Football Championship in fifty years with an emphatic win over their local rivals Naas in the curtain raiser at a wet and windy St Conleth’s Park on Sunday.

Expectations were for a ding-dong battle after a thrilling Division 1 league final between the sides had gone to extra time, with Raheens coming out on top, while in the group stage of this competition Naas had turned the tables with a three-point win.

Raheens, though, took an early grip on proceedings, adapted well to the difficult conditions, and scored three well-crafted goals into the teeth of the wind during the first half to leave Naas with a mountain to climb, trailing by seven points at half-time.

The game needed an early green flag for the county town team after the break, but when the next one came, four minutes after the interval it came from Raheens again – and a freak one at that – sending them eleven points clear.

That essentially ended the game as a contest, disappointingly, with almost half-an-hour still to play, and try as Naas might they were unable to break down a resolute Raheens defence and fashion the goals they needed to stage an unlikely recovery.

Fionn Cooke, one of three sons of manager Shane on the panel, had a hand in all four of Raheens’ goals, deservedly taking the man-of-the-match award, and he had the ball in the Naas net less than two minutes after the throw-in.

Midfielder Cooke started the move, playing the ball out to Daniel Hamill on the wing before taking the return handpass and slotting low to the net at the Kilcullen End for the perfect start for his side.

Naas bounced back well, initially, from that set-back and two well-taken frees from Tom Kelly followed by a fine left-footed score from Ryan Sinkey brought them quickly back to level terms with the wind advantage behind them.

Ten minutes in, though, Cooke turned provider for Raheens’ second goal. The midfielder’s marauding run through the middle set up Niall Dolan to finish powerfully to the roof of Hugh Morrin’s net as Naas were carved open again.

A well-taken mark from the impressive Evan Gilmartin into the wind put Raheens four clear before Kelly again proved accurate from a fourth free for the Naas men.

The Naas goal had another scare when Robert Fitzgerald dropped a ball in defence but the centre-back recovered well to block Gavin Thompson’s shot and concede the ’45, which goalkeeper David McParlin converted for Raheens.

Naas were struggling to get dangermen Elliott Beirne and Sinkey on the ball in attacking areas with Niall Cramer and Cian O’Reilly doing fine man-marking jobs, but Sinkey might have brought them back into it with a low shot that McPartlin parried.

Naas were snatching at chances and struggling to find any rhythm, which was as much down to the well-organised defence of their opponents as the conditions.

As if to illustrate the difference in finishing quality, Cooke confidently fired over another Raheens point from Daire Gilmartin’s pass to make it 2-3 to 0-4 midway through the first half.

Substitute Tom McGrane, on for the injured Daniel Lenihan, pulled one back for Naas but Raheens still had the bit between their teeth. Thompson, who had been off the mark with a couple of wild efforts from play, took full advantage from a close-range free and straight from the Naas kick-out Raheens won possession again with Evan Gilmartin sending Cooke through on goal again.

Morrin got a hand to this one but when your luck’s out it’s well and truly out and Thompson had a simple tap-in at the far post for his side’s third goal. Kelly’s third pointed free sent Naas into the dressing room with something to cling to but trailing 0-6 to 3-4.

They seemed to signal their intent straight from the throw-in when a three-man move ended with Sinkey narrowing the gap to six points but three Raheens scores in little over two minutes immediately afterwards quashed any hopes of a Naas comeback.

First, Thompson claimed and converted a mark from a good pass from Fionn McCarthy. Then McPartlin floated in a dangerous ’45 just under the crossbar which Morrin was forced to deflect over. Then, to put the tin hat on it, the goalkeeper’s clearance went straight to Cooke whose speculative effort bounced over the Naas custodian’s head and into the net.

The nature and timing of the goal effectively put the game to bed at 4-6 to 0-7 as Raheens were able to pull players back and merely contain their opponents.

Sinkey from a mark pulled one back in the 37th minute but it was nine minutes before they got another, Beirne, whose brother Alex was man-of-the-match in the Senior match, getting off the mark with a score.

Beirne, belatedly finding some room, got two more for the losers before the end with Raheens replying through Dolan and Thompson from play with a Thompson free bringing the scoring to a close.

A disappointingly one-sided encounter but Raheens won’t mind. 1972 was a long time ago!

RAHEENS: David McPartlin 0-2 (2×45); Niall Cramer, Ciaran Kavanagh, Jamie McLoughlin; Daniel Hamill, Daragh Crowley, Fionn McCarthy; Fionn Cooke 2-1, Cian O’Reilly; Paul O’Donnell, Evan Gilmartin 0-1 (m), Darragh Cunningham; Daire Gilmartin, Niall Dolan 1-1, Gavin Thompson 1-4 (2fs, 1m). SUBS: Luke O’Donovan for O’Donnell 43, Rory Kenny for O’Reilly 57, Oisin Cooke for Cunningham 59.

NAAS: Hugh Morrin; Jamie McGuirk, Liam O’Reilly, Daniel Lenihan; Evan O’Briain, Robert Fitzgerald, Robert Murray; Charlie Murphy, Ryan Sinkey 0-3 (1m); Adam Maguire, Eoin Lawlor, Ethan Travers; Tom Kelly 0-4 (4fs), Fintan Quinn, Elliott Beirne 0-3. SUBS: Tom McGrane 0-1 for Lenihan 18, Liam O’Connor for Travers 43, Ronan McGroary for Maguire 52, Killian Harrington for Kelly 57.

REFEREE: Ryan Moran

By admin