Hot favourites Donaghmore-Ashbourne dug out a hard-earned win over Rathkenny in this SFC round one contest at Pairc Tailteann on Thursday evening.
Don-Ashbourne ... 2-13
Last year's runners-up led for most of the way on a calm and mostly overcast evening. They opened up a four-point lead on two occasions, once in each half.
Battling Rathkenny kept in touch and might have got a 57th minute goal but Donal Keogan was narrowly wide when well-policed by the Donaghmore-Ashbourne rearguard.
At the other end of the pitch, full-forward John Broderick tormented the Rathkenny defence and finished with 1-5 from play. Dylan Brady's left boot added a further four points including the final score the stymied a late Rathkenny rally.
All bar one point of the winners' scores came from play. Rathkenny managed one such score after the break, a fine Caolach Halligan effort that left it 1-10 to 2-10 after 46 minutes.
Under pressure in the final quarter, Donaghmore-Ashbourne lost two players to black cards. Given that one at least prevented a possible Rathkenny goal, maybe it's time to review this rule.
The versatile Donal Keogan led by example for Rathkenny while Brian and Christy Meade gave the side a strong presence at midfield.
Without the injured Andrew Tormey, Donaghmore-Ashbourne sprinted from the blocks with points from Thomas McGovern and Dylan Brady within 90 seconds of the off. However, the 10/3 outsiders hit back with a brace of scores, including a well-taken Donal Keogan goal at the town end that left Rathkenny leading 1-1 to 0-2 five minutes in.
The pendulum swung Donaghmore-Ashbourne's way and they regained tbe lead in the 11th minute when John Broderick netted from close range with assistance from Thomas McGovern.
The favourites kicked-on with Daragh McGovern's goal at the start of the second quarter moving them 2-4 to 1-3 clear. Rathkenny's rally yielded a 0-5 to 0-1 return over the next 12 minutes and level matters for the second time.
Their admirable efforts left Rathkenny just two points off the pace at the break, 1-8 to 2-7. Within two minutes of resumption, Broderick pointed with help from Daragh McGovern.
The scoring rate slackened in the second-half during which Donaghmore-Ashbourne outscored Rathkenny by 0-6 to 0-5. However, the intensity upped as the possibility of an upset rose.
Donaghmore-Ashbourne - Jack Hannigan; JP Casserly, Cormac McGill, Jack McCarney; Conor Carton (0-1), Shane Melia, Paul Gilligan; Conor Carey, Kevin Lannigan; Ciaran Ellis, Bryan Menton, Daragh McGovern (1-1, 0-1f); Dylan Brady (0-4), John Broderick (1-5), Thomas McGovern (0-2). Subs - Jack Giles for Casserly (22), Sean Byrne for Ellis (42), Leo Reilly for D McGovern (bc 50), David Carey for Gilligan (bc 54).
Rathkenny - Colin Curtis; Niall Branagan, James Macken, Joe Gore; Stephen Crosbie, Donal Keogan (1-1), Thomas McGuinness; Brian Meade (C) (0-2, 1f), Christy Meade (0-1); Ivan Lenehan, Jack Gore (0-4fs), Robbie Garry; Caolach Halligan (0-3, 1f), Donal Curtis (0-2), Keith Timmons. Sub - Brian Lenihan for Timmons (52).
Referee - Martin Griffin (Simonstown)