The 14 man Fingal Ravens undo Suncroft
Fingal Ravens 2-9 Suncroft 1-5 14 men from Fingal Ravens produced the stuff of dreams on Sunday as they rose from the dead and qualified for their first ever Leinster final with an amazing comeback over Kildare champions Suncroft at Rolestown. Pitch invasions are a rare thing at the remote venue but this was like a scene out of Match of the Day as on field TV interviews were conducted and relayed over the temporary tannoy system. Whether they can bring themselves back down to earth for the final in two weeks against next door neighbours Donaghmore Ashbourne is another question but the residents of this tiny community have been living the dream for the past three months ? so why stop now?
That dream though looked like turning into a nightmare for a good part of this fiercely contested game. With the sides level at 1-3 apiece at the break Ravens were dealt a cruel blow moments after the restart when they had inspirational captain and midfielder Keith Kavanagh sent off for a second yellow card.
The Ravens looked in real strife at this stage and manager Mick Deegan had to think quick to re-jig his attack.
But as so often is the case the team with one man less rallied harder and the hoops went on to outscore the visitors by 1-6 to 0-2 in the second half. Hero of the day was corner forward Ciaran Norton who aside from slotting home an early goal also slotted over three points from play and was a constant threat. Niall Tormey too proved to be a real man of the moment with two second half frees in particular that were inspirational.
The game had started so well for Ravens with a goal after 30 seconds after a high ball from Tormey was met on the deck by Norton and he slotted to the net.
However, the home side failed to build on that exciting start as Suncroft started to come back into proceedings with Killian Brennan very influential at midfield. Indeed, the big man kick started the Suncroft revival with a great point from 45 metres before Michael Hartnett ? who was by far the Kildare side?s best player ? slotted over an easy free.
Things got even better for Suncroft moments later when a high ball into the square was gathered by corner forward Michael Connelly who was bundled over by Shane Maxwell. Referee Eddie Craul from Wicklow had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Hartnett buried the resultant kick to the left hand corner.
That score shook Ravens? confidence and with Hartnett on fire up front the home side fell further in arrears.
Suncroft had their weaknesses too though and they failed to take full advantage of what was a fairly stiff breeze in that opening half. Having survived that onslaught Ravens steadied themselves and pointed frees from Ian Kavanagh and Tormey before the break brought the sides all level.
There was plenty of roaring and shouting in the two huddled groups at half-time and the fireworks really got going with the dismissal of Keith Kavanagh shortly after the restart.
However, there was to be no denying Ravens what was a famous victory. When Kavangh was dismissed Ravens simply upped their work rate and closed down the open space available to Suncroft.
Tormey produced two wonderful frees in the 39th and 49th minutes to move the home side into a lead which they never relinquished - incidentally there were no scores in between that period.
It must be noted that Suncroft missed two frees from less than 30 metres in both the 54th and 56th minutes and had they gone over it would have reduced the margin to one point.
Ravens had early spurned opportunities to close out the game with a missed goal effort from Norton but they were not going to let their date with destiny pass.
A superb point from Stephen Madigan followed by a fisted goal from Nigel Duffy, who was less than three minutes on the field, sealed the win for the Dublin champions. This as they say was a memorable day.
Scorers: Fingal Ravens: C. Norton 1-3, N. Duffy 1-0, N. Tormey 0-3 (3fs), M. White, I. Kavangh (f), S. Madigan 0-1 each.
Suncroft: M. Hartnett 1-3 (1-0 pen, 2fs), C. Byrne, C. Dowling (f) 0-1 each.