Thursday 23 January 2020

Wallaces propel Ratoath to the Royal summit

Ratoath 3-15 Summerhill 2-13, Meath SFC final

Ratoath’s giant leap: Eamon Wallace leaps with delight after Ratoath secured victory in the Meath club SFC final. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ratoath’s giant leap: Eamon Wallace leaps with delight after Ratoath secured victory in the Meath club SFC final. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Ratoath may be one of those typically fast-expanding suburbs of Dublin that belong to another county, but they're growing elsewhere too.

More specifically on the pitch, where yesterday they were crowned Meath SFC champions for the first time in their history.

This completed their rapid ascent through the Royal ranks: they won their first junior title in 2012, conquered the intermediate grade in 2015 but you'd never have guessed they were senior final rookies as they steamrolled Summerhill for most of the hour in Páirc Tailteann.

They started disastrously, conceding a goal to Kevin Ryan after barely 15 seconds, and also leaked 1-2 in injury-time after Ross Ryan scrambled home a 61st minute goal.

But it was all too little, too late for a Summerhilll team battling in vain to prevent county final heartbreak for the third year running.


In between, Ratoath were rampant. An Eamon Wallace penalty (fourth minute) and Conor Rooney (nine minutes) turned the contest on its head with quickfire goals and Dáithí McGowan then buried a 29th minute daisy-cutter to put seven-point daylight - 3-7 to 1-6 - between the sides at half-time.

That lead stretched to nine points before Summerhill rallied to make it a five-point game. But as the final ambled to its inevitable conclusion, the raw speed, clever movement and slick finishing of Ratoath's forward division had long set them apart.

Joey Wallace edged his brother Eamon for the official Man of the Match award; Bryan McMahon wasn't far behind.

And it's that inter-county pedigree that might give Ratoath a chance of bucking the miserable record of Meath champions, who haven't conquered Leinster since Dunshaughlin in 2002.

"Hadn't even thought about that, to be honest. It's a different challenge and I'm sure one the lads are going to relish," promised their manager, Davy Byrne, ahead of Sunday week's provincial quarter-final against Garrycastle in Mullingar.

In a former life, Byrne used to be Dublin's first-choice 'keeper but he has been domiciled in Ratoath for 18 years. In that time, the place has been transformed from a village into a mini-suburb of Dublin.

"Sign of the times," said Jim Gavin's former goalkeeping coach. "Celtic Tiger, cheap land, build houses. Then all the Dublin diaspora moving out.

"It's great. We have huge membership numbers, huge children numbers, 50 or 60 teams there, and it's just going from strength to strength."

SCORERS - Ratoath: E Wallace 1-3 (1-0 pen), B McMahon 0-5 (3f), C Rooney, D McGowan (2f) 1-2 each, J Wallace 0-3. Summerhill: B Dardis 0-7 (6f), K Ryan 1-1, Ross Ryan 1-0, D McCabe, L Shaw, P Geraghty, S Dalton D Larkin 0-1 each.

RATOATH: S Duffy; C Ó Fearraigh, C McGill, S Brazil; B Wyer, G McGowan, J Gillespie; K McCabe, B McGowan; C Rooney, D McGowan, E Wallace; C O'Brien, B McMahon, J Wallace. Subs: E Boyle for Ó Fearraigh (black card, 43), D Kelly for B McGowan (46), B O'Connor for D McGowan (54), J McGowan for O'Brien (57), C Ahearne for Rooney (57), A Gerard for G McGowan (59), E Boyle (black card 65, not replaced).

SUMMERHILL: T McDonnell; P Jennings, Ronan Ryan, J Lavelle; J Keane, Ross Ryan, P Geraghty; D McCabe, D Dalton; D Larkin, P Larkin, K Ryan; L Shaw, B Dardis, S Dalton. Subs: M Byrne for K Ryan (inj, 32), C Frayne for Shaw (41), W Ryan for Larkin (46).

REF: D Gough (Slane).

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