Ratoath 0-11 Rhode 0-9
By Paul Keane at Páirc Tailteann
Gutsy Ratoath held on in tense circumstances to record their first ever win in the AIB Leinster club SFC, five points in a row midway through the second-half proving decisive.
A tense battle went right to the wire but five Ratoath points between the 36th and 50th minutes nudged the former Leinster junior and intermediate winners to a landmark win.
Their reward for the win, the first for any Meath team in this competition since 2018, is a semi-final clash with The Downs of Westmeath at Croke Park in 13 days.
Veteran Offaly star Niall McNamee scored seven points for Rhode and his last two points late in the game reduced the deficit to just one but Bryan McMahon kicked what proved to be the insurance score for the Brownstown outfit.
Ratoath, with three Meath SFC titles annexed in the last four seasons, entered the contest as favourites despite that record of never having won a senior game outside of the county.
The Royal County’s record generally didn’t augur well either with just 13 wins by Meath teams in 33 outings since Dunshaughlin won the 2002 Leinster title.
The recent record of Meath teams in Leinster is particularly poor with just three wins by their representatives in the last 13 seasons, prior to today.
Ratoath lost to Garrycastle in their maiden senior outing in 2019 and didn’t play in 2020, despite claiming their second county title, due to the pandemic.
Rhode, who have played in five Leinster finals since 2006 and lost the lot, came into the game with a strong record against Meath teams with three wins from three – against Skryne (2010), Navan O’Mahonys (2014) and Simonstown Gaels (2016) – in that period.
Their ultra experienced group claimed a 31st Offaly title back in September and approached this contest confident of pulling off an away win.
They edged a cagey first-half and hit the interval with a 0-5 to 0-4 lead, Niall McNamee nudging them ahead with his fourth point from a free with the last kick of the half.
McNamee won that free himself when he was fouled by Ratoath and Meath full-back Conor McGill.
The McNamee-McGill duel was one of the game’s intriguing head to heads with Ratoath also assigning Ben Wyer man-marking duties on recent Tailteann Cup All-Star Sullivan.
All but one of Rhode’s first-half points came from Niall McNamee frees, his cousin Conor floating over the other one from distance.
Ratoath stationed county attacker Eamon Wallace at centre-back again and, after striking 0-3 in the Meath decider, he was threatening again going forward again with 0-2.
Wallace’s first point came in the 19th minute and tied up the scores at 0-4 apiece, the third time they’d been level in a tense half that included the 10th minute black carding of Rhode forward Paraic Sullivan.
Aaron Kellaghan stretched Rhode’s lead with a fine point from distance after the restart and the visitors twice opened up two-point leads though Ratoath edged the third quarter to regain the advantage.
Three Ratoath points in a row from Daithi McGowan, 2, and Jack Flynn left them in the ascendancy and Cian O’Brien’s 46th minute score put Ratoath two clear for the first time, 0-9 to 0-7.
Wallace’s 46th minute black card could have been a setback but Ratoath handled it well and did enough to maintain a two-point advantage at full-time.
It was those five points in a row – from McGowan, Jack Flynn, Cian O’Brien and Cian Rogers – that sealed the victory in the end.
Scorers for Ratoath: Daithi McGowan 0-3 (0-2f), Eamon Wallace 0-2, Jack Flynn 0-1 (0-1f), Bobby O’Brien 0-1, Keith McCabe 0-1, Cian O’Brien 0-1, Cian Rogers 0-1 (0-1 mark), Bryan McMahon 0-1 (0-1 mark)
Scorers for Rhode: Niall McNamee 0-7 (0-7f), Conor McNamee 0-1, Aaron Kellaghan 0-1
Ratoath: Darragh McPartlin; Ciaran O Fearraigh, Ben Wyer, Conor McGill; Gavin McGowan, Eamon Wallace, Brian Daly; Ben McGowan, Jack Flynn; Keith McCabe, Daithi McGowan, Cian Rogers; Cian O’Brien, Bobby O’Brien, Bryan McMahon.
Subs: Padraic Byrne for McCabe 54, Andrew Gerrard for Daly 57, Conor Rooney for O’Brien 61.
Rhode: Kenneth Garry; James McPadden, Jake Kavanagh, Brian Darby; Keith Murphy, Conor McNamee, Gareth McNamee; Alan McNamee, Dylan Kavanagh; Paraic Sullivan, Aaron Kellaghan, Ciaran Heavey; Niall McNamee, Anton Sullivan, Ruairi McNamee.
Subs: Stpehen Hannon for Paraic Sullivan h/t, Darren Garry for Heavey 39, Paul McPadden for Gareth McNamee 48, Shane Sullivan for Alan McNamee 61.
Referee: Seamus Mulhare (Laois).