At this stage of the season, and in provincial championship action in particular, it’s all about getting results. On that score, Ratoath will be happy enough. Especially given the paltry record of Meath teams at this level over the years.
For all that, there will probably be a cognisance in the blue and gold camp that numerous percent more will be required when they adorn Croke Park next time out.
This corner’s summation beforehand would have been that a younger Ratoath team with less mileage aboard should hold sway against the wily, well travelled men from the Faithful County. And in the end, that is basically what transpired, but that mere fact wouldn’t tell half the story.
Shooting towards the town goal and with the aid of a not insignificant breeze, the perennial Offaly kingpins led by 0-05 to 0-04 at the break with the wonderful Niall McNamee working his wizardry for those clad in green and gold.
Though in truth Ratoath must have wondered how it wasn’t them to the fore. Daithi McGowan, Cian Rogers, Jack Flynn and Bobby O’Brien all looked potent going forward but it could be argued that the Keegan Cup winners were slightly laboured and indecisive with their use of bountiful possession in the opening stanza.
It would be no surprise if that point was made in their dressing room before the change of ends either. Right from when Laois official Seamus Mulhare got things going again, Ratoath were more direct. Typified as Eamon Wallace answered another fine McNamee effort with a monstrous point into what would be traditionally recognised as the scoring goals in Pairc Tailteann.
Having heavy artillery is one thing, being able to utilise it to your own best advantage entirely another. David Brady and his fellow mentors certainly pulled a rabbit from the hat when stationing Wallace at centre half back. Debunking some centuries old theories on the game in the process. Centre backs, it seems, don’t have to be man mountains after all. Nor, indeed, is there an onus on them to ‘stay at home’ and hold the middle.
Now, I am by no means anti change, but it would also seem a fairly safe punt that one is by no means alone in being a bit bemused by some of the alterations foisted upon the fundamentals of our games in the last decade or so. One basic tenet hasn’t changed and is unlikely to ever do so – those who score the most win.
Plus, it doesn’t matter a toss from whence the scores are derived. What I will eternally contend, though, is that the direct route – letting the ball do the work – is the easiest and most cost effective way of dealing with same. Either, a la Wallace, driving over from long range, or, letting the ball in long where, in Ratoath’s case, serving Bobby and Cian O’Brien with an ample supply of ammunition.
Which enabled the Royal County representatives overturn a two point deficit early in the second half and drive into a lead of 0-10 to 0-07. However, whether subconsciously or not, the Conor McGill-captained outfit again began to obfuscate and dwell on the ball, thus inviting the Offaly side onto them, and they duly closed the gap.
But then, for all that Rhode are serial winners, in Ratoath’s case, you don’t win three county titles in four years without becoming a little bit streetwise. To that end, their game management when Wallace was harshly black carded between the 17th and 27th minutes of the second half was commendable.
As was the industrious Bobby O’Brien throughout the hour. Whether his drifting out the field was by design or of his own volition is unknown but it ended up playing a pivotal role in his side’s eventual victory.
Creating the space inside which allowed Bryan McMahon isolate himself in front of goal and claim an impressive mark which he then deftly drove between the posts, earning the Meath champions a win their workrate and dominance of possession wholly merited.
I suspect, mind you, that the feeling in the neighbouring parish will be one of ‘A lot done, more to do’ before tackling The Downs. A slogan that has served citizens of the locality well in the past!
Still, they will be the first club from the Royal County to takedavidreidy2 to the big field at this particular level since Walterstown in davidreidy21984.
Ratoath: D. McPartlin, C. O’Fearraigh, C. McGill, B. Wyer; B. Daly, E. Wallace (0-2), G. McGowan; D. McGowan (0-3), B. McGowan; C. Rogers (0-1), J. Flynn (0-1), K. McCabe (0-1); B. O’Brien (0-1), C. O’Brien (0-1), B. McMahon (0-1). Subs; A. Gerrard for Daly, P. Byrne for McCabe, C. Rooney for B. O’Brien.
Referee: S. Mulhare (Laois)