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Sunday 4 December 2016

Marino men on brink of legend status

Vincent's can write themselves into folklore as one of the great Dublin club sides if they can secure a third county title in-a-row

St Vincent’s captain, Diarmuid Connolly, who are going for their third Dublin SFC title when they face Ballyboden St Enda’s in Sunday’s final
St Vincent’s captain, Diarmuid Connolly, who are going for their third Dublin SFC title when they face Ballyboden St Enda’s in Sunday’s final

Maybe the most remarkable thing about St Vincent's stunning run these past three years is that there were no smoke signal or tremors indicating that it was coming.

They were All-Ireland champions in 2008, an impressive encore to winning a first county title (in October 2007) since 1984 but in the five editions of the Dublin SFC between then and their next county title in 2013, they failed to so much as make a final.

Only twice in that run, in 2008 and 2010 when beaten by Kilmacud Crokes both times, did they last until the final four.

Energy

For a team as visibly in sync and boiling with energy as Vincent's currently are, you might assume that the side is buttressed by the product of some wonder team from the underage ranks, or a sequence of them.

You'd be wrong. St Vincent's last won a Dublin under-21 'A' title in 2004. Almost unbelievably, their last minor 'A' crown arrived in 1994 and they've only contested one such final at that grade in the past eight years.

Were they to do the Dublin SFC three-in-a-row on Sunday in Parnell Park (4.0) - and their semi-final performance against Ballyboden St Enda's suggested strongly that they will - it will put them among the pantheon of great Dublin club sides.

Most remarkable though, is the fact that after winning an All-Ireland in 2014 and going coast-to-coast through another 10-month season to an All-Ireland semi-final last February, they looked even more sleek, more impish and fresh this season than they have done the past two.

"We would have said that all year, especially when they were drawn against Ballymun; 'would they have the appetite or the energy to go again after the summer?'" says Dublin and St Oliver Plunkett's star Bernard Brogan.

"Dermo (Connolly) has had three long years and the other lads have been on the go for ages. Ger (Brennan) has had his struggles with injuries

"But they just keep on coming and coming again."

The nucleus remains.

Of the 2014 All-Ireland winning team, 13 started against Na Fianna last Sunday.

The drivers of the team from the 2008 win, Diarmuid Connolly, Ger Brennan and Tomás Quinn, are still around too, and each playing as well now if not better than back then.

Unlike most clubs sides though, there's no identifiable weak point.

Strong

"They have such a strong panel," Brogan argues. "They have 24 or 25 lads. I remember when we played them in the league this year … we played them out there and they must have been missing eight or nine or 10 of their first string team and they beat us.

"It was like no-one was missing. They've had that for a long time. That makes a massive difference at club level."

Missing Connolly during the less glamorous months doesn't force them to break stride either.

"It's probably a challenge that we haven't managed very well in Plunkett's over the years," Brogan admits.

"If we had three or four Dubs and a couple of other county lads and then you're dropping five or six lads into a team at the end of the summer, it's very hard to get the balance right.

"We had years when we were phenomenal throughout the league, winning all around us.

"Then we'd drop five or six lads in and other fellas might take their eye off the ball. They might expect the county lads to do it for them.

"That's a strong point of Vincent's and Ballyboden.

"They have a team that is working all year, rowing together and then they get just a bit of class at the end of the year when Dermo or Mick Macauley come back.

"They row into a system. And that's something Vincent's have done better than anyone over the years.

"They've been able to get that momentum back."

Having exited the championship to Boden (1-12 to 1-11), Brogan is naturally disinclined to overlook Ballyboden.

"They're a hard-working team but they've class in a lot of their lines," he points out.

"I think they're very strong around the middle and that will play a big part this weekend.

"They're a good club team. They know how to win. They've gotten over the line before.

"So I don't think it's a foregone conclusion, as a lot of people would say.

"Vincent's are obviously the top team out there and will be rightly favourites going into it," he adds.

"They're a very good team in that obviously Dermo is phenomenal and there's Mossy (Tomás Quinn) and they have a lot of key individuals but the team works really well together.

"We saw that first-hand last year in the championship when we did a great job on Dermo and Mossy and a couple of their forwards and then other lads stepped up," Brogan adds.

"That's a sign of a really good team."

The last St Vincent's side to achieve the three-in-a-row between 1975 and '77 remain the most famous club side of all time in the capital, thriving in the most storied era for Dublin football ever.

Now, as it happens, the current crop of St Vincent's and Dublin players are close to putting both of those concepts under threat.

 

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