Grange gain upper hand in Intermediate decider

Grange 1-14 Shane O’Neill’s 0-16

Grange captured their first Intermediate title since 1993 and Cathal McKenna will be remembered as the hero who kicked the winning score with the last piece of action. Shane O’Neill’s will certainly feel harsh done by, leading by one point with the three minutes of addition time played, Grange struck two frees after injury time to secure their famous win.

McKenna will get the headlines for the coolness he showed in kicking the final point, but as a unit Grange worked tirelessly in the second period to come back from four points behind at the interval to win by the minimum of margins. Huge credit must also go to their opponents Shane O’Neill’s who certainly played their part in a great spectacle and deserved more from the contest.

Paul O’Rourke was outstanding in the Shane O’Neill’s attack and his partnership with Connaire Mackin worked a treat and the two danger men were responsible for 12 of their sides’ scores, hitting the target from open play and frees. O’Rourke was so influential in the game that he was award the Man of the Match even though he was on the losing side.

Grange got the game up and running when Ben Toal beautifully curled over a free after two minutes while Eamon McCabe, who was a late addition to the starting 15, levelled two minutes later. An inspiration Ethan Rafferty point from 45 metres saw Grange in front but once again the Camlough men replied, Connaire Mackin pointing a free.

Mackin got the next score from a free with a clean strike off the ground while Greg McCabe shot forward from centre half back to land his teams 4th point. The game continued in its end-to-end nature and Ben Toal’s brilliantly weighted kick pass found Ethan Rafferty who punched the ball to the back of the net to give Grange a one point advantage.

Shane O’Neill’s responded brilliantly and struck the next three points all from play and all from the boot of Paul O’Rourke who’s first touch was exceptional throughout the game. Connaire Mackin landed his third before Grange pulled one back with Diarmuid Rafferty measuring his free kick to perfection, the score 1-3 to 0-8.

Grange continued to station Rafferty in front of the Shane O’Neill’s net minder and the high ball option worked brilliantly. Rafferty should have saw the ball nestle in the net once again when his high catch allowed him to spin and fire a bullet of a shot goal-wards, only for the crossbar to come to Shane O’Neill’s rescue.

O’Rourke and Mackin were again on hand to chip over a point each before Rafferty hit a huge score from an acute angle. Two Connaire Mackin frees where split by another Rafferty wonder score from near the sideline to end the action for the first half with Shane O’Neill’s ahead 0-12 to 1-5. The Shane’s would have been delighted with their performance in the first 30 minutes, especially their forward uni,t as they scored 12 times from their 13 shots.

Grange were straight back into contention with two points in quick succession at the beginning of the second half. Shaun Toal gained possession with a brilliant tackle and fed the ball to Miceal McKenna who opened his account with the assistance of the upright. Ethan Rafferty hit the next and it was truly an inspiration score for his side, with Cathal McKenna’s high catch starting the move that saw Rafferty dummy shoot on his left before cutting inside and curling the ball over with his right.

The result was up in the air at this stage and Shane O’Neill’s were dealt a critical blow when midfielder Raymond Fitzpatrick was send off for an off the ball incident. A huge block from Diarmuid Rafferty in his own half back line denied Shane O’Neill’s a scoring chance while the Grange quickly turned defence into attack with Ben Toal slotting the ball over.

David Boyle raced forward from corner back to chase onto Paul O’Rourke’s pass and put his side two ahead with the game now entering the final quarter. Ben Toal stroked over a free to keep the Grange close but Connaire Mackin also displayed his accuracy from the dead ball to maintain his sides two point lead.

Ethan Rafferty rose highest to capture possession from his sides resulting kick out and began another attack with Cathal McKenna bringing the margin back to a single point before his brother Miceal hit the levelling score with a brilliant point in the 19th minute, the sides now tied 1-11 to 0-14.

Shane O’Neill’s kept driving for home however and Paul O’Rourke hit his 5th point, converting a free that he had earned. Ciaran Mackin charged forward and struck a magnificent outside of the boot point from distance to give his side a two point advantage on the 22nd minute.

Grange fought hard to get on level terms and Miceal McKenna used the outside of his foot to cut the deficit to one with time running out. The three minutes of added time had been played but the final whistle had not yet sounded when Diarmuid Rafferty was presented with the opportunity to tie the game.

Rafferty duly obliged and the crowd anticipated the final whistle on the restart, but the game continued and from the kick out Grange gained possession and Miceal McKenna was fouled in his attack. Cathal McKenna was the man offered the chance to create history and his swinging effort will live long in the memory of those in attendance.

The referee called for the ball from the resulting kick out, the crestfallen Shane O’Neill’s men fell to the ground in disbelief while the Grange players never stood taller. The game was absorbing from start to finish and some of the skills on show were top class. Ethan Rafferty was incredible on the edge of the square during the opening period, hitting 1-3 of his side’s 1-5 but his workman like shift around the middle of the field was a game winning switch from the Grange management.

Grange Scorers: Ethan Rafferty (1-4), Ben Toal (0-3), Miceal McKenna (0-3), Diarmuid Rafferty (0-2), Cathal McKenna (0-2)

Shane O’Neill’s Scorers: Connaire Mackin (0-7), Paul O’Rourke (0-5), Greg McCabe (0-1), David Boyle (0-1), Eamon McCabe (0-1), Ciaran Mackin (0-1).