John's find the winning blend
Ballinteer St John's . . . . . . . . . . . 3-12 Wild Geese . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-5
Ballinteer St John's produced a dominant second-half performance as they comfortably overcame Wild Geese by 13 points in their Dublin Junior 'F' Hurling Championship Final in O'Toole Park last Saturday.
With the contest delicately poised at the interval, St John's assumed complete control after the break and they drove home their advantage through a glut of late scores to put a somewhat flattering perspective to the final scoreline.
That such a margin would separate the sides at the final whistle seemed highly unlikely at half-time as Wild Geese enjoyed a two-point lead but the concession of an early goal proved highly detrimental to their chances as they struggled for primary possession in the second-half.
Huge credit must go to their opponents for the manner in which they seized the initiative with their potent mix of youth and experience proving an irresistible combination by the close.
One of their senior players, Denis Flanagan, handed St John's a dream start with the former Dublin minor getting the deftest of touches to an Oisín Mac Cinnéide free in the opening minute for the game's first goal. However, Wild Geese replied with a goal of their own when Kevin Fitzgerald poked home from close range as Ballinteer dealt unconvincingly with a Tom Kennedy free.
With the breeze at their backs, the Oldtown outfit enjoyed a greater degree of possession initially and Kennedy added a fine score from play to inch his side a point clear in the sixth minute.
After Seán Dunphy had doubled his side's advantage with a long-range free four minutes later, a superb team move culminated in Dave Rennie popping over to maintain Wild Geese's momentum.
The breezy conditions proved detrimental to the shooting on both sides with St John's increasing their possession stakes without troubling the umpires but they finally gained reward for the efforts of Flanagan and wing-back Peter Fletcher when Shane O'Connor added their first point of the game in the 18th minute.
A Flanagan free nine minutes later brought St John's to within a point of their opponents but Wild Geese ensured a 1-4 to 1-2 interval lead after an excellent solo score from Stephen O'Connor soon after.
The concern remained that a two-point lead may prove insufficient given the influence of the elements and so it proved as John's reeled in their arrears, starting with a fine score by Anton Redmond in the opening minute of the second-half.
Within a minute, Ballinteer found the net again with Joe Watters availing of a defensive slip-up to poke home and a Mac Cinnéide free soon after pushed the Marley Park men two points clear.
The confidence that the lead brought them ensured that there would be no let-up on the Wild Geese goal and they pushed further ahead after an excellent Paddy Reilly score in the 38th minute.
Kennedy briefly stemmed the flow with a pointed free in the 41st minute but it proved to be Wild Geese's solitary score of he second-half as Ballinteer built on their lead through a brace from the hugely influential Flanagan.
Reilly and Mac Cinnéide heaped further misery on Wild Geese as the half developed and despite introducing a number of substitutes, the interplay and understanding within the St John's side never suffered with full-back James Ahearne epitomising the defensive solidity of the winners.
The procession towards the Wild Geese goal continued unabated and the match was effectively settled as a contest in the 55th minute when Watters calmly rounded Seán Flatley for a simple but well-executed goal as the competitive nature of the clash gradually eroded in the closing stages.
The classy Flanagan added another sublime point from play to cement his side's position of dominance as a battling Wild Geese continued to work tirelessly in what was their first appearance in a hurling championship final.
Better days undoubtedly lie ahead of them.
However, there was no question that the more deserved outcome was arrived upon with St John's adding gloss to the final scoreline through late points by Flanagan and Mac Cinnéide, sealing a wonderful and noteworthy success for their trio of mentors in Conor Dolan, Ciarán Clabby and Oisín Power.
Scorers - Ballinteer St John's: D Flanagan 1-5 (0-3f), J Watters 2-0, O Mac Cinnéide 0-3 (2f, '65'), P Reilly 0-2, S O'Connor, A Redmond 0-1 each. Wild Geese: K Fitzgerald 1-0, T Kennedy 0-2 (1f), S O'Connor, S Dunphy (f), D Rennie 0-1 each.
Ballinteer St John's: T Hayes; F Power, J Ahearne, T Dillon; P Fletcher, B Judge, J Quaid; C Murphy, O Mac Cinnéide; S O'Connor, K Croke, P Reilly; A Redmond, D Flanagan, J Watters. Subs: J Maher for Murphy (half-time), R Donnelly for K Croke (48), P Corcoran for Redmond (53), E Kelly for Reilly (57), C Croke for Watters (58).
Wild Geese: S Flatley; P Kealy, P McCarthy, P Flood; C Condon, N McCaffrey, D O'Brien; S O'Connor, O Holly-Garcia; S Dunphy, T Kennedy, D Rennie; J Rennie, K Fitzgerald, A Lenehan. Subs: M Kennedy for Lenehan (38), D Darcy for Flood, M King for J Rennie and C Mac Ionraic for Fitzgerald (57).
Mentors - Ballinteer St John's: Conor Dolan, Ciaran Clabby, Oisin Power. Wild Geese: Aidan Lenehan, Sean Flatley, Tom Smyth.
Referee: Terry Murphy (Trinity Gaels)
Wides: Ballinteer St John's 11 (8+3) Wild Geese 9 (7+2)
Conditions: A dark and dreary afternoon in Crumlin.
Player of the Game: Peter Fletcher (Ballinteer St John's)