Ratoath or Summerhill? Historic Keegan Cup to be wrapped in cotton wool after Sunday's SFC decider
Sunday’s joust between Ratoath and Summerhill for possession of the 2019 Keegan Cup has all the makings of the proverbial thriller if the evidence of the semi-finals is used as a gauge.
A change this year will see the original Keegan Cup handed over for the presentation ceremony, but a replica will then be made available.
Meath GAA Co Board ratified this change last month to prevent further damage to the Keegan Cup as the trophy is now over 50 years old.
Summerhill look better equipped on a number of fronts to win the SFC for the eighth time.
That assessment is based solely on the brand of football that Ratoath produced in the semi-final against Gaeil Colmcille.
For most of the opening 30 minutes in that encounter Ratoath were lethargic and ponderous and never really got into the game - a repeat of that form will send them home empty-handed on Sunday evening.
Ratoath were well off the pace in the opening 30 minutes against Gaeil Colmcille and only had two Joey Wallace points and a Ben McGowan opener to their credit by the 20th minute.
They were boosted by a late flourish as Bryan McMahon (free) and Conor Rooney sent over points that reduced the deficit to four at the interval - those late points were important in the overall Ratoath rehabilitation process.
Transformed would just about do justice in trying to describe second-half Ratoath from first-half Ratoath and they recorded a 2-14 to 1-10 victory after trailing by 0-5 to 1-6 at the break.
They registered six unanswered points, that was eight in-a-row if the late first-half efforts are added, in a nine-minute at the start of the second-half blitz that gave them a 0-11 to 1-6 advantage.
Central to the revival was the contribution of brothers Eamon and Joey Wallace who played some of the best football I have witnessed from them in recent times.
The brothers shared four points with Conor Rooney and Ben McGowan also on target with a salvo that left Gaeil Colmcille chasing the game.
The fact that Gaeil Colmcille got back to parity on two occasions subsequently and Ratoath found more reserves suggests that they are well equipped to deal with whatever Summerhill may throw at them.
However, and isn’t there always one, Summerhill will pose many more serious questions than a faltering and tetchy Gaeil Colmcille managed in that semi-final
The quality that Summerhill possess will test Ratoath’s ability to come up with all the answers. It’s more likely that the Keegan Cup will be winding its way towards the relatively rural setting of Summerhill on Sunday evening rather than to the urban-like environs of Ratoath.
For that outcome to materialise Summerhill will have to bring the same intensity to Sunday’s decider that they displayed against Simonstown Gaels for an hour and more in the semi-final.
That won’t be a major challenge for the Summerhill men who play a fast-paced and fluent type of football.
They move forward fast and they cover back at the same pace when they don’t have possession. They also move the ball quickly and rarely squander possession, although they had one or two blips against Simonstown with some mis-directed passes.
In that semi-final Summerhill were rocked early in the second-half when Simonstown’s Niall Kane found the net and they conceded a second goal at the three-quarter stage when Nicky O’Brien finished for the Gaels.
After surviving that, Summerhill then fell behind again when Conor Sheridan pointed the Navan men in front with three minutes remaining, Sean Tobin quickly added another.
At that late stage it looked as if Simonstown were on their way to their third decider in four years, but looks can be deceptive.
Summerhill had the resources to find a response and when Kevin Ryan fired to the net it left the Navan men staring at the exit door.
Summerhill’s ability to play at a fast pace for 60 minutes will be crucial if they hope to handle the threat that players of the calibre of Eamon and Joey Wallace, Bryan McMahon, Conor McGill, Gavin, Ben and Daithi McGowan will pose for Ratoath
But they have the strength-in-depth to cope and will look to the hugely talented Davy Dalton to drive the team forward with Ross and Ronan Ryan, Kevin Ryan, Barry Dardis and Liam Shaw all well equipped to perform on the big stage.
PATHS TO THE FINAL
Summerhill 1-10, Don/Ashbourne 1-15; Ratoath 7-16, Longwood 0-11.
Summerhill 1-14, Moynalvey 1-9; Ratoath 0-11, Donaghmore/Ashbourne 0-8.
Summerhill 1-10, Ratoath 1-9.
Summerhill 4-19, Rathkenny 1-11; Ratoath 2-12, Moynalvey 1-10.
Summerhill 4-23, Longwood 0-8; Ratoath 1-16, Rathkenny 0-9.
Summerhill 3-19, Na Fianna 1-11; Ratoath 4-16, Skryne 1-6.
Summerhill 2-12, Simonstown 2-10; Ratoath 2-14, Gaeil Colmcille 1-10.
David Dalton, Liam Shaw, Tony McDonnell, John Lavelle, David Larkin, Robbie McDonnell, Barry Dardis, Ross Ryan, John Keane, Willie Ryan, Micheal Byrne, Conor Frayne, Padraig Jennings, Stephen Husband, Iarla Hughes, Padraig Geraghty, Conor Lyons, Kian Hussey, Eoghan Jennings, Jack Bannon, Eoghan Crowe, Diarmuid McCabe, Eamonn McDonnell, Jack Davies, Paul Larkin, Eamon Ryan, Jack Regan, Ronan Ryan, Kevin Ryan, Sean Dalton.
Management - Declan Mccabe, Paul Comey, David Gannon, Conor Gillespie, Bobby Lyons.
Gareth Rooney, Shane Duffy, Darragh McPartlin, Sean Brazil,Ben Wyer, Conor McGill, Luke Newe, Ciaran O Fearraigh, Cormac Butler, Brian Daly, Emmet Boyle, Andrew Garard, Padraig Byrne, Gavin McGowan, Jack Gillespie, Keith McCabe, Darragh Kelly, Jack McGowan, Daithi McGowan, Ben McGowan, Cian Rogers, Connell Ahearne, Eamon Wallace, Conor Rooney, Brian O’Connor, Joey Wallace, Cian O’Brien, Bryan McMahon.
Management - Davy Byrne, Marty Mannering, Liam Eiffe, Sean Ryan, Cian O’Brien.
Slane clubman David Gough will officiate at Sunday’s SFC Keegan Cup final.
Both clubs will have to change due to a clash of colours. Summerhill will wear yellow with a blue trim and Ratoath white with blue cuffs.
It’s a stage that the Summerhill players have performed on and lost last year and in 2017 and that experience will be crucial while, brimming with talent Ratoath, will be sampling Keegan Cup final day for the first time.
Ratoath will not be overawed by the occasion, but the disappointment of losing those two finals could ultimately drive Summerhill to what would be a third Keegan Cup this decade.
This will be Summerhill’s sixth final experience since 2011 as they played out a draw against Dunshaughlin that year (0-10 apiece) and won the replay by 0-14 to 1-9.