Sunday 17 February 2019

Dignam: I'd have been gutted to miss Vins ambush

Belief is key to Rathnew run, says veteran 'keeper

Rathnew goalkeeper Peter Dignam pictured at Croke Park ahead of the AIB Leinster Club Senior Football Championship semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Rathnew goalkeeper Peter Dignam pictured at Croke Park ahead of the AIB Leinster Club Senior Football Championship semi-final. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Peter Dignam is acutely aware of Rathnew's seismic impact on this year's AIB Leinster club football championship. The veteran 'keeper is just as clued in to the reality that the Wicklow champions have opened a window of opportunity for everyone left in the race.

Ten days ago, they ambushed St Vincent's in Aughrim when no one had seen it coming.

Well, apart from their own dressing-room. "We believed that we could get at them in ways that other teams hadn't ... and then everything clicked on the day," Dignam explains.

"We played in 10 and 20-minute bursts throughout the championship but we put it together on the day.

"You have to have it (belief)," he adds. "Even the guys at work ... I work in the Terenure Inn and the Dubs were saying 'You have to believe' and genuinely you do. You can't take to the field and not think you can do it. We thought we could and we think we can too."


The bar manager gets plenty of football stick at work so it was "nice to go up after winning. But the Dubs are gas. They were all 'Well done and when are you on and will it be on telly the next day?' It was good craic."

That next day is a semi-final date with Kildare champions Moorefield on Sunday, back on familiar Aughrim turf.

But first, back to Vincent's. Dignam's post-match delight was tinged with relief, too.

In the wake of Rathnew's fractious first round defeat of Newtown Blues in Drogheda, the towering 'keeper was named in the referee's report (even though he hadn't been sent off). As club secretary, he was first to receive the official news of a proposed one-match ban - cue a Thursday night trip to Portlaoise for a Leinster Council hearing.

"It was a bit of a roller-coaster week," he recounts. "I went down to the hearings and they cleared it up ... a bit of a mistake and they withdrew it.

"I missed a week of the build-up, the Tuesday and the Thursday; got the word on the Friday and, of course, delighted then.

"At 37, it's the biggest game (of my career) ... Moorefield will be another massive game but to play against the Dublin champions, you want to play against Vincent's, the best team in the country, let's say. So I'd have been gutted if I missed it."

Sixteen years have passed since Rathnew's standout success, their one Leinster SFC title at the expense of another Dublin heavyweight, Na Fianna.

Dignam was sub 'keeper for that final replay, understudy to Tommy Murphy - a role he would fill for "four years at least". A different era; and yet several young guns on that 2001 team remain as elder statesmen.

"At times we thought we had better teams, better equipped to do a run in Leinster, but the timing seems to be right now for us," he surmises. "We make comparisons with the (2001) team to see is it realistic, can we go and do something. But we haven't done anything; we didn't win any medals; we put in a really good performance and won a match.

"It's definitely nice to be in the hunt - but everybody is in the hunt and it gets tougher now. We've played Loman's and Moorefield before; I'm sure they think they can win it as well."

To underline that point, even at home, they are 7/4 underdogs against Moorefield.

"There are probably two or three teams there better equipped, squad-wise and facilities-wise. We're in and we'll give it 100 per cent," he stresses.

There is, of course, one king-sized complication: sister club Glenealy have simultaneously qualified for a Leinster IHC final, against Ballyragget in Nowlan Park, on Saturday week. And five players - brothers Leighton and Enan Glynn, Danny Staunton, John Manley and Warren Kavanagh - are pivotal to both.

"We have five lads involved with the hurling and they're in the intermediate final so we're pulled a bit and stretched. We definitely won't be lacking anything in desire but we could do with another week," he admits.

One thing's for sure, in the search for semi-final inspiration, Rathnew will look to themselves rather than 'Fortress Aughrim'. He dismissed the venue's fearsome reputation as an "urban legend" now amplified by their victory over Vincent's, but he warns: "We lost to Moorefield there (in 2014) and lost to Loman's there (in 2015), well beaten.

"Aughrim is as good as any sod, the facilities are as good and the Wicklow people are as warm and as welcoming as any. So there is nobody leaving the doors open and making it uncomfortable for people. It is a little off the beaten track and maybe that adds to it, but Aughrim village is a beautiful place."

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