Ravens back to top flight after thriller

by Stephen Findlater

AT THE back end of 2013, Fingal Ravens survived a relegation play-off against near neighbours St Finian’s to retain their place in AFL Division 2.

Last Saturday, they confirmed they are moving out of the division, but in vastly different circumstances after their dramatic one-point win over Skerries Harps confirmed they will win the league, moving back up to the top tier of football in Dublin with two games to spare.

It is a remarkable turnaround, Ravens winning their first 11 games in succession this time around.

That left Colm Nally’s team needing just one win from their final three games which they duly achieved in Skerries, albeit having to come back from a mammoth six-point deficit inside the final 10 minutes.

Last-gasp scores from Cian O’Scanaill and Niall Tormey saw Ravens land the AFL2 title in the most dramatic fashion.

With a sizeable Ravens’ crowd making the trip to the seaside, their party looked set to be spoiled by the hosts who had their own play-off ambitions to chase.

But the Rolestown men converted the last 1-4 in the final 10 minutes without reply — and despite missing a 51st minute penalty — to claw their way back to win.

It was a struggle early on as Harry Dawson’s low-driven goal in the sixth minute put Ravens on the back foot. Indeed, it took 20 minutes before they broke their duck. But the hoops finished the half the stronger. Tormey kicked 1-2, including a stylish goal, to end the first half at 1-3 each.

Skerries restored their lead via Tommy Ryan’s 37th minute goal, but keeper David Mitchell kept his nerve under a volley of high balls to limit the damage.

He was unfortunate that his excellent save from Donnacha Reilly fell invitingly to Graham Cullen, who converted a sharp rebound.

Reilly’s artful point from the left channel boosted the lead to 3-6 to 1-6 at the 50 minute mark, and it looked like Ravens’ party plans were very much on ice.

That feeling was accentuated when Tormey thudded the bottom of the post from the penalty line after Ciaran Norton was hauled down.

Tormey atoned in brilliant style with a low-slung cross that O’Flaherty bravely palmed in to set up a grandstand finish.

Luke Griffin landed a point to build the momentum before sub O’Scannaill and Tormey cleared the bar to raptured sideline celebrations. And the former sealed the deal in the 62nd minute with a suitably dramatic high, looping effort that took an age to come down and confirm the title laurels with two games to spare.

Speaking afterwards, manager Nally admitted to GazetteSport his side “don’t make it easy” on themselves, but the depth of the panel helped them realise a memorable occasion.

“We went down twice and made quite a few changes, bringing on O’Scannaill in the middle, scoring two points when we were losing our grip which turned the key.

“It’s a panel game and we had 17 or 18 players there that got us over the line.”

It was one of a number of games in which Ravens dug out a result from an unlikely situation. Against Castleknock, the Rolestown club grabbed victory despite being reduced to 13 men, while they also had close encounters with St Anne’s and St Peregrine’s.

“The thing about Ravens is, we’re a small club. Most of these lads would have played together growing up so they have a great team spirit. The last few years, they lost their fight but we got it back this year.

“Games like Castleknock just showed they have great heart and a lot of the work on the training ground came through, getting men behind the ball and moving it quickly. So we’re just delighted to get over the line.”

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