By Mark Jones
Na Fianna 1-6, Rathnew 0-9
The pre-match favorites, Na Fianna of Dublin, were fortunate to survive to do battle another day when they played out a draw with Wicklow’s Rathnew in last Sunday’s Leinster club football final at Newbridge.
Once Na Fianna’s key player, Dessie Farrell, had been sent off early in the second half, the odds changed significantly for Rathnew, but they were unable to finish the job.
“We had enough chances to win the game, and I’m very disappointed,” Rathnew manager Harry Murphy said. “Na Fianna have played eight important games in the last two months, so we felt we would be able to wear them down near the end.”
Farrell, who scored his team’s goal in the first half, was shown a straight red card after he was adjudged to have elbowed corner-back Barry Mernagh.
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“I put my elbow up to protect myself and he went down like a ton of bricks,” Farrell said, and even if it seemed a harsh decision, he will now miss Sunday’s replay at the same venue.
Once Farrell had departed, Rathnew began to dominate in every area of the pitch as Mark, Darren and Ronan Coffey, Kevin Gill, Declan Byrne and substitute Leighton Glynn impressed. Yet the Wicklow side was still a point in arrears as the game drifted into injury time before Mark Doyle clipped over the equalising point.
Asked how he felt about having to play on Dec. 23, Murphy was philosophical. “Look, Christmas comes around for us every year. Leinster finals don’t.”
Birr 2-10, Castletown 0-5
Castletown were left to ponder a missed opportunity following last Sunday’s replayed Leinster club hurling final at Nowlan Park. Ahead by seven points at one stage during the drawn game, the Laois club were shown no mercy at the second time of asking by Birr, whose captain, Simon Whelahan, had a profound influence on proceedings.
Injured for the first match, and rated highly doubtful for the replay, Whelahan duly appeared from the changing rooms to score 1-8, 1-4 of which came from play. He was aided and abetted by Stephen Brown, who lashed in Birr’s first goal while Brian Whelahan was his usual classy self.
In fact, some of the challenges aimed at Brian displeased his father and Birr manager, Pad Jo Whelahan.
“Castletown’s performance was terrible,” the Offaly club’s manager said. “I wasn’t too happy with the way they were hurling. In the end, though, they weren’t at the races, they weren’t good enough on the day.”
Birr now meet the Ulster champions, Dunloy of Antrim, in the All-Ireland semifinal on Feb. 17.