By Mike Fitzpatrick
Denis Tuomey’s Rangers side fought a valiant, yet unsuccessful, battle to clinch the 1999 junior football championship versus a strong Rockland side, moulded into perfection by manager Paul Rowley.
It was never going to be easy to play under the atrocious weather conditions. A heavy rain continued throughout the 70 minutes, turning the pitch into a mudbath.
The first half consisted of 30 players trying to find their feet, and battling to put some decent moves together despite the ball refusing to bounce, catching players out of position. On many occasions, the ball, rather than flowing along with the pace of the game, landed in lakes of rainwater.
Rockland forced their way through the Blues defense, and registered two early points from the boots of Dave Fitzgerald and Leo Turley.
Rangers came right back and, on counterattacking, grabbed points from Dave Phelan and Mike Bishop.
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This was how the first half continued, each side held the lead at various stages. Rangers moved ahead thanks to Phelan’s accuracy in front of the posts, with the forward grabbing four more consecutive points. Turley hit another two for Rockland to even the tie, and a goal from Emmet Woods moved the upstate side in front until Rory Hussy of Rangers grabbed the equalizing point late in the opening half.
The sides went in level at seven points apiece at half time, and it
looked as if a very close tie was on the cards.
How differently it turned out.
Introducing the heavily experienced Mike Joe Hennessy, Rockland began to take the upper hand, and managed to put together a couple of noteworthy moves despite the rain.
Gerry O’Riordan and Gerard Heavin grabbed a point each, and Turley rounded Rangers keeper Ger Cremmins to hit a fine goal to the delight of the hardy Rockland support getting drenched in the stands of Gaelic Park.
Heavin and Fitzgerald hit a couple more to give the upstate
side an eight-point lead, until Andy Brady the Rangers full forward banged in a goal to reduce the deficit to five.
Tom McHugh snatched another for Rockland, and moments later some fine defensive work from Rangers’s Malachy McHugh prevented another Rockland goal which would surely have killed the tie.
Andy Brady hit a late penalty for Rangers to give an air of
respectability to the tie, but by then the damage had really been done. Turley, in the meantime, had slammed in Rockland’s fourth goal of the post to give his side an unassailable eleven point victory.
Rangers: Ger Cremmins, Malachy McHugh, Mike Rennicks, Phil Bermingham, Tomas Maher, Lorcan Murray, Tom Bermingham, Mike Bishop (0-1), Rory Hussey (0-1), Dave Ryan, Joe Moloney, Mike Sheridan, Fintan O’Shea, Dave Phelan (0-5), Andy Brady (2-0). Subs: Sean Concannon, Cormac Murray, Eamonn Cregan
Rockland: Jimmy Dwyer, Denis McHugh, Tom O’Riordan, Jimmy O’Flynn, Tommy Acton, Eamonn O’Hara, Donal Cassidy, Tom McHugh (0-1), Paddy Corcoran, Dave Fitzgerald (0-4), Billy Horan, Gerry O’Riordan (1-1), Emmet Woods (1-0), Gerard Heavin (0-4), Leo Turley (2-2). Subs: Tommy Fennell, Mike Joe Hennessy, Mike Prendergast, Sean Fitzpatrick, Sean Roche.