BEFORE a ball was kicked in anger in the Joe Fox Tool and Plant Hire IFC the odds of Monasterevin and Raheens meeting in the decider would have been well into double digit figures, writes Tommy Callaghan.
In fact Monasterevin, who plied their league trade in Division 1, although fancied by many were quoted at odds of 8/1 to go all the way.
Their opponents, Raheens, were trading at 14s and while their was a mini coup landed when they defeated Johnstownbridge in the semi final (at odds of 11/4) few it would seem had taken the original 14s.
And so in a championship that is notoriously difficult to win and equally to predict, Monasterevin are now installed as firm favourites to lift the cup at odds of 2/5 with the Caragh boys the value bet at 2/1 with local players Cill Dara Betting.
Needless to say when the ball is thrown in on Saturday (4.30) those odds will have no bearing on the result as both teams go at it hammer and thongs to be crowned intermediate champions and a return to the senior ranks of Kildare football.
Both Monasterevin and Raheens failed to get their respective campaigns off to very encouraging start, The Blues drawing with Ellistown before being defeat in the replay 3-8 to 1-7 while Raheens got a real eye opener going under to near neighbours Caragh.
It is a testament to both sides and their respective managers, Pascal Kellaghan (Monasterevin) and Richie Connor (Raheens) that they buckled down got back to winning ways with Monasterevin recording wins over Kilcock and Caragh and Raheens getting the better of Straffan and Ballyteague.
Quarter final saw The Blues recording an excellent 2-16 to 1-7 win over Eadestown while Raheens had to go to a replay (and extra time) before dismissing Rathangan 1-11 to 1-10.
And so on to the semi finals and here Monasterevin came up against last season’s junior champions, Robertstown while Raheens had the unenviable task of tackling hot pots Johnstownbridge.
Monasterevin and Robertstown went right down to the wire with Monasterevin looking home and hosed until a late Robertstown rally saw them force the game to a replay.
That game was played in Hawfield last week (report in this issue) and this time around the Monasterevin boys made no mistake booking their final spot with some ease.
By that time of course the second semi final had been done and dusted with Johnstownbridge looking on their way over a hard fighting and stubborn Raheens side who refused to go away.
Still with time just up and Johnstown three points clear few, if any, expected anything but a win for The Bridge.
But Raheens, renowned for their championship fighting qualities, stunned their more illustrious opponents with a Noel Byrne goal that tied up the game and then hit two points in time added from wing back Darren Earley and Ross McMahon to cause one of the biggest upsets of the competition.
So now to Saturday and a decider that most pundits will certainly favour Monasterevin to win.
They are a fine side, did reasonable well in the top division of the league and have some big men down the middle. Strong in defence with full back John Dempsey, Mark Cornish at no. 6 and flying wing back Paul Kelly who, if given space has the ability to cause a lot of problems.
Whether Wayne Fitzpatrick starts we will have to wait and see (Monasterevin contest the Minor B final before the intermediate) but this youngster is a class player and if he lines out is surely worth three or four points. Add in Leonard Havens in midfield the Kelly boys and this side has a real winning look about it.
Raheens will graft until the cows come home (and even after they arrive) and will not be found wanting for effort. Whether they have the capacity to hold Monasterevin, who get lots of bodies behind the ball and break at speed, is open to question.
They do possess some top forwards such as Noel Byrne and Alan Igoe in particular while Ross McMahon is very capable and super sub Martin Taaffe as he proved in the semi, can do a job when asked.
John Lawler had a mighty game in the semi final while Darren Earley and Gareth Byrne are strong defenders. Midfield can be crucial and it is here in particular that Monasterevin could have the winning of this one.
Expect a tight game and if it goes down to the wire don’t rule out another Raheens shock but at the end of the day one has to go for Monasterevin to take the cup and move on to senior ranks come 2013.