SFC Group 2 Round 2
Old Leighlin 2-13
With both teams coming in with their hands hanging from last week's matches in the so-called group of death, Old Leighlin's 3-point defeat having its pluses if you can from defeat, the holders Palatine level with 5 mins to go but taking an 8-point defeat into this evening's game, a sun-drenched Netwatch Cullen Park greeted both clubs. Defeat not an option.
With their 2022 meeting ending in stalemate, Palatine already guaranteed top and Old Leighlin bottom, a dead rubber so to speak, Old Leighlin gave a sneak preview of what was to come against the eventual champions, an ability to get goals, 3 that night, 2 last week, and 2 more in this one when it could have been double that at halftime alone.
The direct running at the Pal rearguard reaping rewards early doors, points from Mikey and the returning Seanie Bambrick after a marauding run on 2 and 3 mins had them up and running. The last pass falling into a grateful Palatine hand on at least 2 occasions in the following period, including a quick free which just about didn't come off.
It was Darragh Fitzpatrick who settled the holders into the Dublin Rd goal in the 5th minute, Mikey Bambrick replying immediately from a Shane Dooley fetched kickout. Dooley, along with Ian Atkinson, ruling the skies (their fathers Andy and Trevor ruled the Towns Cup in the 90s with County Carlow Rugby Club) from their own kickouts, in particular, for a lot of the 60+ mins.
Soon after, Jack Deacy got his name on the scoreboard before an Old Leighlin attack on the stand side saw a Patrick Murphy advantage fully vindicated. Tadhg Roche, like in last year's encounter, raising the green flag with a low finish past the advancing Craig Kearney for 1-3 to 0-2 in the 8th min.
It was evident to all present it was no fun in the sun playing into or defending the far goal, backs and forwards alike taking time to adjust to the Indian summer-like conditions. Conor Crowley included, he eventually found his radar though, a free on 11 mins his first telling contribution. A Seamus Kinsella reply on 13 min followed by Tadhg Roche eking out room to make it a 1-5 to 0-3 game on 16 minutes, a fair reflection of the game so far.
Young Cian Cashman at full back (one of four 18 yr olds to feature for them on the night) got out first to create a Palatine attack which saw Crowley get his first from play on 17 min; his 2nd followed soon, both finished as you'd expect, Mark Rennick involved. Rennick offering a lot going forward in this period, a Shane O 'Neill free for which Jordan Kelly picked up a yellow, 1-5 to 0-6 on 22 min.
In the 25th minute, Old Leighlin looked odds on to net a second goal, the ball landing at the feet of Darragh Fitzgerald, doing everything right with Craig Kearney beaten, his finish along the ground finding the outstretched left boot of the experienced David Reid tracking back to clear off the goal line. Bryan McMahon's point soon after surely hurt the Old Leighlin men, now just a point to the good after a lot of hard yards gained. It was following another lung-bursting run from the Roche brothers that it fell for Cathal Coughlan to point to conclude a first half which was easy on the eye, 2 teams having a right go at one another, sharing 14 scores, 1-6 to 0-7 at the interval.
Having kicked 4 of the last 5 scores of the opening half, Palatine continued where they left off, Crowley with a free and Andrew Kehoe in the 33rd and 34th min had the sides level for the first time. The question now was could the holders drive on or could Old Leighlin stem the tide?
Seamus Kinsella has scored a good few and more than a few good in his time, duly obliging from the 21 to restore a 1-7 to 0-9 advantage. Aaron Amond, who had until now a quiet enough game, would have a pivotal part in proceedings from here on; his 45m free on 38 min just about having enough gas to clear the crossbar for 1-8 to 0-9.
Shane O 'Neill with a placed ball has an inevitable outcome, a white flag, a one-point game on 41 min, the game now taking on semi-knockout status, which it possibly had anyway. Mikey Bambrick replying with a fisted point a minute later, Darragh Fitzgerald fouled on 45 min, Cathal Coughlan pushes it to 1-10 to 0-10, mentioned Rennick's earlier getting through a lot of good work, now he backs it up with a pair of well-taken points interrupted by a Kinsella free in between for 1-11 to 0-12, 51 mins on the clock.
Darragh Fitzpatrick found himself inside the Old Leighlin rearguard in the next attack, a push in the back, any closer, and a possible penalty, advantage given, his daisy cutter passing Steven Scallan's right-hand post, back for the inevitable point from O'Neill's free, 1-11 to 0-13, throw in a Jordan Kelly block, McMahon effort off the post for a point, David Reid point given by the umpire but overruled by the linesman and referee (no complaints I may add from Palatine) in this period.
Frenetic defending the name of the game for both sides now, scores at a premium, 5 scoreless minutes in fact, halted by Seamus Kinsella (the sole survivor from the 2003 County final loss after a replay to The Blues) making it 1-12 to 0-13, 57 mins into an enthralling encounter.
Then on 59 mins came the crucial score of the game, a turnover on the Old Leighlin 45 with all 14 outfield Palatine players pushed forward. We've seen this film before, last week in fact when Aaron Amond kicked from there to get the return to goal against Eire Og; this time he did it all himself when set clear from halfway, rounding Craig Kearney to seal the points, a finish his brother Padraig would be very proud of, 2-12 to 0-13 as we headed into added time.
Bryan McMahon making it a 4-point game shortly after but still ultimately a 2-score game before a similar attack to the previous for Old Leighlin ended with Amond pointing for a deserved 2-13 to 0-14 result after a breathtaking hour's entertainment. Fair play to all involved for their honest efforts.
The Rathvilly/Eire Og thrilling encounter the previous evening backed up and some, next week's games now leaving the reigning county champions' tenure hanging by a thread. Eire Og their opponents while Old Leighlin meets already qualified Rathvilly with that the only definite in the group.
The rule change from Croke Park regarding head-to-heads etc. in group games and how each county has/haven't adopted them along with a presumed who plays where and when (presumably both games at the same time in Training Centre Fenagh and Netwatch Cullen Park) next weekend.
A lot done, more to do. Take that Electric Picnic!
Old Leighlin: Steven Scallan, Jordan Kelly, Seanie Bambrick (0-1) Roy Sheehy, Tadhg Roche (1-1) Niall Roche, David Bambrick, Shane Dooley, Ian Atkinson, Cathal Coughlan (0-2, 0-1f), Aaron Amond (1-2, 0-1f), James Dowling, Mikey Bambrick (0-3), Seamus Kinsella (0-4, 0-1f), Darragh Fitzgerald. Subs - Kevin Carpenter, Paraic Coughlan.
Palatine: Craig Kearney, Cillian Duff, Cian Cashman, Gavin Healy, David Reid, Stephen Reilly, Darragh Fitzpatrick (0-1), Mark Rennick (0-2), Finbarr Kavanagh, Jack Deacy (0-1), Shane O 'Neill (0-3f), Bryan McMahon (0-2), Andrew Kehoe (0-1), Joshua Egan, Conor Crowley (0-4, 0-2f). Subs - Cillian Moore, Brandon Cassidy, Jack Brennan.
Referee - Patrick Murphy