Na Fianna 1-24 Raharney 0-19
By Gerry Buckley at TEG Cusack Park
Brian Ryan’s superb goal in the 59th minute was decisive as Na Fianna defeated Westmeath champions Raharney by a flattering eight-point margin in Mullingar.
Despite playing against the wind, Na Fianna raced into an early two-point lead courtesy of the lively AJ Murphy and Colin Currie (a free). Raharney’s marquee player Killian Doyle halved the deficit in the sixth minute from a free, but the Dubliners were economical and unanswered points followed from the sticks of John Tierney, Murphy and Peter Feeney.
The impressive Eoghan Ahearn and Tierney traded points, before a Doyle free and a fine score from Joey Boyle left the home team trailing by 0-6 to 0-4 at the end of the opening quarter.
An element of niggle crept into the game at this juncture. The sides soon swapped points from placed balls – Colin Currie (free) and Eamon Cunneen – a superb sideline cut. Gavin King was unable to replicate this with a sideline cut which proved to be his side’s only wide of the first half. Neither team really threatened a goal in the remainder of the half, both wisely opting to go for points. Na Fianna deservedly led by 0-14 to 0-11 at half-time.
Ciaran Stacey almost got in for a goal within 20 seconds of the resumption of play for the first-time metropolitan champions. Both free-takers, Colin Currie and Killian Doyle, continued to dissect the posts at either end. The strong-running Eoin Keyes had claims for a penalty in the 42nd minute waved away before the sliotar was deflected over the endline, with Doyle converting the resultant ‘65’.
Despite looking the better side, Niall Ó Ceallacháin’s troops found it hard to shake off their plucky hosts. A wonderful sideline cut in the 44th minute by Sean Currie had Na Fianna ahead by 0-19 to 0-16 at the end of the third quarter. Try as they might, Ger Flanagan’s charges could not get within three points of the winners, but Doyle’s accuracy always had them in touch.
The gap was five points (0-24 to 0-19) when Ryan, who had been the dominant midfielder on show all through (in addition to rifling over a hat-trick of points from play), burst through for a well-taken goal to seal the tie with a minute of normal time remaining.
Late on Killian Doyle picked up a second yellow card in added-time, and Na Fianna prevailed.
Scorers for Na Fianna: C Currie 0-9 (9fs), B Ryan 1-3, AJ Murphy, S Currie (1 sideline) 0-4 each, J Tierney 0-2, P Feeney, C Stacey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Raharney: K Doyle 0-12 (nine frees, one ‘65’), E Ahearn 0-4, C Boyle, E Cunneen (sideline), C Boyle 0-1 each.
Na Fianna: J Tracey; S Burke, C McHugh, D Clerkin; P O’Dea, L Rushe, K Burke; B Ryan, P Feeney; J Tierney, G King, S Currie; C Currie, AJ Murphy, C Stacey.
Subs: S Barrett for King (39 mins), S Baxter for Stacey (47 mins), J Burke for Tierney (51 mins), D Ryan for Clerkin (58 mins), C Kelly for Ryan (60+2 mins).
Raharney: A McHugh; C McKeogh, J Mulkearns, D Finn; C Boyle, R Greville, D Hickey; E Cunneen, G Greville; K Doyle, C Doyle, J Boyle; B McGrath, E Keyes, E Ahearn.
Subs: R Keyes for Hickey (51 mins), D Hill for C Doyle (inj., 60+1 mins), M Doherty for C Boyle (60+4 mins).
Referee: P Dunne (Laois).