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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Greatness secured by Vinnies

St Vincent's 0-15 Castleknock 0-11 Dublin SFC final

Tomas Quinn Picture: Sportsfile
Tomas Quinn Picture: Sportsfile

Inarguable greatness probably isn't the easiest thing to attain around St Vincent's GAA club but there can't be much dispute now.

Having flirted with that sort of legacy last year, their senior football team sealed that particular deal in Parnell Park on a crisp November Saturday afternoon.

Castleknock had their moments, mind, in what would have ranked as one of the most remarkable GAA stories of the year.

From non-existent in 1997 to a Dublin SFC final in 2016 takes some doing.

And they'll be back.

But Vins enduring class told. Their experience showed.

And Diarmuid Connolly, fittingly, lifted the Clery Cup.

Thus, their golden generation have now delivered more silverware than any 'normal' team are capable of.

Three Dublin titles in four years is the stuff of GAA immortality, even around Páirc Naomh Uinsionn, where the walls of the clubhouse are festooned with picture of the very, very greats.

"You could put it down to experience," said their manager, Tommy Conroy, afterwards.

"But a lot of it was down to the desire the guys had. They wanted this so badly."

It was, lest anyone forget, precisely a year ago that Ballyboden St Enda's blew them to smithereens in Donnycarney, the outsiders making short, unapologetic work of their three-in-a-row bid.

Given the age bracket of some of their most load-bearing players, it wasn't unreasonable to suggest that St Vincent's, for all their class, were at a point in their arc from which they had to look backwards to see it's peak.

If, before throw-in, you'd compiled a survey of every one of the many, many neutral attendees at their semi-final fixture with Ballymun Kickhams who they felt would win, the result would have been somewhere in the region of 3/1 against.

"We were all hurt by that and pained by that," Conroy acknowledged.

"Taking nothing away from Ballyboden, they were excellent and they went on and won an All-Ireland.

"But it does spur you on. There's a huge amount of work gone into this.

"To be part of this ... the group, the management team that's there, the people that are there with me, they're unreal.

"And they're very selfless people. They're an amazing bunch of people. Incredible."

Not that they were ever made truly uncomfortable on Saturday, but Vincent's had to sing for their supper.

Dangerous

Castleknock are all vim and sprightly energy and Vincent's had to think their way around, as well as barge their way through.

Helpfully, some of their most dangerous forwards sparked together for the first time this year.

None more so than Tomás Quinn.

He kicked three from play, two frees and had a direct hand in four more points.

Age be-damned - he remains the craftiest corner man in Dublin club football.

In the second half, after Casleknock kept on jabbing for half-time equilibrium, his ability to attract Diarmuid Connolly's attention and win the balls his captain was pinging 40 metres onto his chest was vital in the creation of the scores that ultimately won Vincent's the game.

Connolly, meanwhile, didn't hit the long-range points he scored against Ballymun for his personal highlights reel but those assists really were special.

The flight of the ball rose only about half a metre between Connolly's boot and Quinn's chest, some 40 metres in the distance, giving the Castleknock defenders no chance whatsoever.

"Tomás put so much into this," Conroy explained.

"He's a very dedicated guy, he puts an awful lot into it. I know Diarmuid ... it probably wasn't his greatest game but, at the crucial times, it was him that was delivering the ball into Tomás.

"He put two or three great passes into him in the second half, and Tomás finished them off."

Gavin Burke had a stormer at this exalted stage just two years ago but again, he chose Saturday for his best performance of this season.

He kicked two points after an early shot dropped badly short but his drive and ability to break Castleknock's defensive lines, Shane Carthy likewise, gave a very direct and penetrative dimension to the Vincent's attack.

Their new recruit, Enda Varley, also made an important contribution, scoring 0-4 (0-1f).

And it says plenty of Vincent's decision-making that Albert Martin's second half miss was their only wide from a shot all day.

Even after Ger Brennan had been dismissed for a second yellow card (55th minute) with a challenge that may have warranted a straight red, Vincent's controlled it a bit better, moved the ball a bit further, marshalled Castleknock that smidgeon tighter.

"When Ger went, I'm not saying it helped us, but it definitely galvanised us," Conroy pointed out.

"I think Castleknock came on to us a little bit more. We turned them over and, again, we were able to keep the ball and work openings late in the game."

Naturally, Ciarán Kilkenny was Castleknock's most likely match-winner but on a day that didn't solve the question as to whether he is more effective as an inside man or a play-maker (he was excellent in both), the truth was the his team probably needed two Ciarán Kilkenny's to beat St Vincent's.

"They've asked questions of each other," Conroy added, "they've been very honest with each other and, please God now, they'll give a little bit more now."

dublin sfc final: st vincent's 0-15 castleknock 0-10

SCORERS - St Vincent's: T Quinn 0-5 (2f), E Varley 0-4 (1f), G Burke 0-2, Cormac Diamond, S Carthy, R Trainor, J Feeney 0-1 each. Castleknock: D Carlos 0-5 (5f), C Kilkenny, K Kindlon 0-2 each, E O'Brien 0-1.

ST VINCENT'S: M Savage; M Concarr, J Curley, C Wilson; B Egan, G Brennan, Cameron Diamond; D Murphy, S Carthy; G Burke, D Connolly, Cormac Diamond; R Trainor, E Varley, T Quinn Subs: A Martin for Murphy (33), J Feeney for Cormac Diamond (42), A Baxter for Varley (60).

CASTLEKNOCK: M Connolly; P Bourke, P Sherry, E O'Brien; G Hannigan, T Shiels, T Quinn; C Kilkenny, S Boland; D Carlos, B Galvin, K Kindlon; M Galvin, J Sherry, C Lynch. Subs: M Griffin for M Galvin (42), J Kindlon for Lynch (53), M Brady for B Galvin (56).

WIDES - St Vincent's: 2 (0 + 2) Castleknock: 3 (3 + 0).

SENT OFF - St Vincent's: G Brennan (55, 2nd yellow)

REF: D Sheppard (Round Towers, Lusk).

ATTENDANCE: 9,000 (est.).

MAN OF MATCH: T Quinn (St Vincent's).

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