13 Aug 2022

Milltown produce a comeback for the ages to deny Rheban and land junior title in an absolute classic

Milltown 1-14 Rheban 1-10 Tom Cross JFC final If all county finals carried as much drama, emotion and entertainment as this the GAA would be in a great place. Two years after agonisingly losing out to Kilcullen after a replay in the Junior Championship final, Milltown managed to produce a comeback for the ages and land the silverware that alluded them in 2016. It was harsh on a Rheban side who led by seven points at the break following a barnstorming first half performance, but they managed just two points in the second half as the occasion seemed to get to them and their opponents really upped the ante. The period between the 50 th and 55 th minute of this game will provide all the talking points as it was a really bizarre spell. Rheban lost goalkeeper Christopher Byrne to a red card, conceded a penalty that wasn’t marked up on the scoreboard for five minutes, and then they missed a penalty of their own as Milltown stopper Paul Mulhall produced some heroics to deny Conor Germaine. It all conjured together an unforgettable game that left players, management and the huge gathering of supporters for both sides simply exasperated. In any county final all you want to do is start well and considering they hadn’t appeared in a championship final of any kind since 1996, it was imperative that Rheban settled quickly. They did just that as they brought intensity, ferocity and a bit of reckless abandon to the game, marking their territory as they looked to seize a rare chance at silverware. Midfielders Barry Foy and Stephen Lawlor dropped deep to help choke the life out of the Milltown attack, and that allowed half-backs Adam Ryan and Darren Lawlor the licence to storm forward and attack. A quick break up the middle yielded their opening score in the third minute as Conor Germaine pointed, and corner-forward Brandon Shaw followed that up two minutes later with a tidy effort as Rheban warmed to their task well. Stephen Lawlor instigated the next score as he brilliantly robbed Ronan O’Shea of possession, and Rheban countered quickly before Adam Ryan stroked over a point at the end of the move. They lost David Kelly to injury in the 11 th minute, but his replacement, Keelan McConville, sent them four clear with his first kick of the ball. Milltown really needed to get out of neutral, but even though they managed to dominate for the briefest of spells in the first half, their good passages of play were all too fleeting. Alan Dignam finally broke their duck in front of goal in the 17 th minute with a good score from play, and a minute later he slotted over a free as it looked like his side were settling. Rheban roared backed into the ascendancy however, and another point from the excellent Shaw kept them in control before Pa Byrne floated over a good score as they trotted into a four-point lead once again. Morgan Owen became the second scorer for Milltown when he broke up the right wing and split the posts from close range, but the green and red never managed to build on that as Rheban exerted some control again. Like the response to Dignam’s scores, it was Shaw and Byrne who raised white flags to keep the scoreboard ticking for Ruaidhri Jacob’s men. Struggling to get any grip on the tie, Milltown had full-back Kevin Byrne to thank for keeping their scoring going as half-time approached, with the defender kicking a fine score that really lifted their supporters. As half-time approached it looked like the game was finely poised with just four points separating the teams, but Rheban would deliver a brilliant sucker punch in the seventh minute of injury time at the end of an explosive first half. Germaine was the instigator as he picked out Nathan Owens with a fabulous long ball, and the corner-forward scooped it across to Shaw who found the net with all the composure of a player riding high on confidence. Trailing by 1-8 to 0-4 at the interval, Milltown needed hugely up their game in the second half if they were to have any chance of getting back into this one, but they did at least have the wind at their backs as they attacked the Kilcullen End. Milltown clearly had some form of dressing down at the break as they were a revitalised team upon the restart. Rheban seemed to get a serious case of the jitters as they were a some way off in terms of accuracy and execution, allowing Milltown to build their way back into the game and nail nine points in a row to take the lead. Ian Fitzgerald got them started with a point from a free, before Ronan O’Shea angled over a good score from play as they built up a head of steam, and further scores from Robbie Scully and Eoghan O’Toole had Rheban looking over their shoulders. Dignam fired over his third of the afternoon soon after, and further points from Scully and a brilliant effort from O’Shea levelled the game as it entered the final quarter. What occurred over the next few minutes was utterly bizarre. Rheban goalkeeper Christopher Byrne appeared to strike out at O’Shea while the ball was at the other end of the field, and referee Conor Daly sent Byrne off and also awarded a penalty to Milltown. Colin O’Shea stepped up to face Germaine, who took Byrne’s place in goal, and he found the bottom right corner. There was no clear signal given and the goal didn’t appear on the scoreboard, leading to most spectators assuming the ball had gone wide. It wasn’t until five minutes later that the signal was given for the goal to go up on the scoreboard, and in that time there was plenty of action at the other end. Germaine, who went back out the field, won a penalty of his own when he was pulled down by Milltown ‘keeper Paul Mulhall. The goalie atoned for his infraction by superbly saving Germaine’s effort from the spot, though the game was levelled by a Nathan Robinson point from a free. But Rheban were three down at that stage and they needed the goal, and Milltown pressed on from there. Morgan Owen broke up field to kick an inspirational score, and another point from the excellent Ronan O’Shea put the icing on the cake. Nathan Owens gave Rheban some hope with a point in injury time, but there was no stopping Milltown as they powered over the line in the most dramatic of circumstances. Scorers for Milltown: A Dignam 0-4(1f), R O’Shea 0-3, C O’Shea 1-0pen, R Scully and M Owen 0-2 each, E O’Toole, I Fitzgerald and K Byrne 0-1 each. Scorers for Rheban: B Shaw 1-3, P Byrne 0-2, A Ryan, N Owens, N Robinson(1f), C Germaine and K McConville 0-1 each. Milltown Paul Mulhall; Jamie Cross, Kevin Byrne, Mick Colleton; Morgan Owen, Colin O’Shea, James Condon; Omar Dunne, Eoghan O’Toole; Alan Dignam, Kevin Dowling, Cian Buckley; Ian Fitzgerald, Ronan O’Shea, Robbie Scully. Subs used: Wayne Dignam for Owen 58mins, John O’Reilly for Scully 60mins, Eddie Owen for Condon 61mins. Rheban Christopher Byrne; David Kelly, Niall Brennan, Evin Owens; Kevin O’Shaugnessy, Darren Lawlor, Adam Ryan; Barry Foy, Stephen Lawlor; Nathan Robinson, Pa Byrne, Conor Germaine; Nathan Owens, Chris Casey, Brandon Shaw. Subs used: Keelan McConville for Kelly 11mins, Dean Carty for Byrne 55mins.

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