So often tipped as winners, always falling short. It's been a strange few years for the footballers of Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, but finally they look ready to take the next step after impressing in the All-County League Division 4 final in St. Patrick's Park on Friday.
Rathgarogue-Cushinstown 2-13 Tara Rocks 1-2
It's all been said before. They've sauntered through group stages only to come unstuck, but surely this side is different. The youth movement that has now blended well with their experienced men can take this Rathgarogue-Cushinstown side to the next level, and they took the first step against Tara Rocks.
There was so much to like about the victors, but how they reacted to the concession of a goal in the opening minute was impressive. Gearóid Ó Súilleabháin hauled in Noel Gallagher's high ball and slotted past Johnny Kelly but Rathgarogue-Cushinstown didn't panic.
Instead they re-grouped and shut the Rocks out for the rest of the half, building a 1-11 to 1-0 lead in the process. There was some fantastic football, fast off-loading and tidy finishing along the way. They certainly didn't look like a Junior team.
After two Nicky Sinnott points, Enda Doran got a sun-aided goal from long range. The points kept flowing with Bernard Furlong notching a brace, Sinnott taking his tally to four, and the mightily impressive Jason Dunne kicking a lovely score.
Rhys Owley knocked over his side's first point in the 34th minute but a sauntering Rathgarogue-Cushinstown side went further ahead when Tadhg Cody danced past three defenders and slotted low to Darragh McKenna's net (2-12 to 1-1).
There was one scary moment in an otherwise uneventful final quarter. Damien Tobin received his marching orders for making contact with Furlong's head while he was on the ground. After seeming to recover, the Rathgarogue-Cushinstown midfielder got to his feet, only to collapse after a few steps.
With medical aid quick to attend to a prone Furlong, he was slowly helped to his feet and looked to be suffering from concussion symptoms. Tara Rocks, who should have finished with 14, managed to introduce a substitute without withdrawing anyone in the final minute of normal time, but it mattered little as Rathgarogue-Cushintown took a superb victory and league title.
Rathgarogue-Cushinstown: Johnny Kelly; Eoghain Whelan, Páidí McGrath, Patrick Murphy; Jason Dunne (0-1), Ollie Bolger, Brian O'Neill; Enda Doran (1-1), Bernard Furlong (capt., 0-2); Daire Bolger, Peadar Cody (0-1), Tadhg Cody (1-1); Nicky Sinnott (0-6, 4 frees), Danny Martin Carroll, Aaron Ryan (0-1). Subs. - Robert Murphy for T. Cody (48), Neil Merrigan for Furlong, inj. (50), Barry Murphy for Dunne (55), Liam O'Shea for D.M. Carroll (60), Seamus Burke for Kelly (60), John O'Keeffe for P. Murphy (60+2), also Brendan Fitzpatrick, Ian Kennedy, Colin Whelan, Jimmy Whelan.
Tara Rocks: Darragh McKenna; Damien Tobin, Tomás Owley, Richie McDonald; Brendan Hobbs, Gary Owley, Paddy Carton; Paddy Phelan, Shane Tobin; Niall Breen (capt.), Noel Gallagher, Martin Sheehan; Rhys Owley (0-1), Gearúid Ó Súilleabháin (1-0), James Mordaunt. Subs. - Joe Bolger for Sheehan, black card (21), Paul Carton for McDonald (27), Lee Owley for Mordaunt (50), Declan Breen (0-1) for Ó Súilleabháin (50), Patsy Fortune for Gallagher (50), Ó Súilleabháin for T. Owley, black card (53), Eoin Doyle (nobody removed, 60), also Brian McDermott, Danny Howard, Wayne Farrell, Paddy Bergin, Colin Breen.
Referee: Aiden O'Brien (Cloughbawn).