Clontarf nick it!
Lethal Lillis' scores foil dramatic Harps fightback
Clontarf withstood a late and brave comeback from Skerries Harps to deservedly claim the Dublin Under-21 'B' Football Championship title by the slimmest of margins on the all-weather surface at Alfie Byrne Road last Saturday afternoon.
The winners looked well set for a comfortable victory as they led by ten points by the end of the third quarter with a strong breeze at their backs but they stuttered from that point and were hanging on for dear life by the end of the eight minutes of added time.
The foundation for their victory came in their ability to create and convert goal chances into the wind in the first-half with two superbly-taken Kevin Lillis goals and other smart finishes by Eoin McNamee and Tom O'Flaherty helping Clontarf recover from a hugely difficult start.
Their opponents set the tone for a hugely entertaining and free-flowing match from the first whistle as Stephen Smith rattled the post inside 30 seconds but Killian McGinnis was on hand to pop over the rebound.
Robbie Clinton doubled Skerries' advantage soon after as Clontarf's goal led a charmed life initially with Donal McIlgorm palming onto the crossbar following an inviting delivery by McGinnis in the third minute.
With both McGinnis and Matthew Kelly hugely prominent, Harps continued on the front foot and it was of scant surprise when they finally raised a green flag as Kelly timed his pass to perfection and Smith did the honours with a confident finish past Brian Dufficy.
Clontarf finally stalled the flow towards their own goal briefly through a sweet point from Lillis in the fifth minute but Kelly found Smith once again as Harps restored their five-point lead.
Gradually, Joe McDonagh began to influence the game in front of his full-back line as Clontarf enjoyed a greater degree of possession and after a patient move from deep Lillis stroked a typically classy finish into the top corner of Cormac Rocks' net in the 10th minute.
A brace of Smith frees partially offset the concession of that goal but the fluency of the Harps attack suffered the longer the half evolved despite two scores in quick succession from McGinnis that pushed Skerries 1-7 to 1-2 to the good by the 18th minute.
However, their challenge wilted alarmingly for the following 15 minutes as Clontarf seized the initiative with three excellent goals.
The first arrived in the 19th minute as Eoin McNamee fired home after excellent work from influential midfielder Nathan Doran and Clontarf had restored parity within six minutes thanks to points from Lillis and Rory Clarke.
Lillis added another impeccable finish in the 28th minute and by the time Tom O'Flaherty cracked home their fourth goal three minutes into injury-time, Clontarf had turned the game on its head to lead by 4-5 to 1-8 at the break.
Points from Doran, Lillis, Shane Walsh and Clarke enhanced Clontarf's lead to ten points by the end of the third quarter as they held their opponents scoreless for a full 18 minutes.
However, an excellent solo goal by substitute Oisín McKey prompted a thrilling conclusion, one that became even more intriguing as Ciarán Murphy flicked past Dufficy from Smith's clever free in the 57th minute.
The Harps momentum was maintained when Smith converted a penalty deep into injury time but with Liam Howley and McDonagh making some vital interventions late on, Clontarf did just enough to ensure the trophy would be making the short journey up to St Anne's Park.
Scorers - Clontarf: K Lillis 2-6 (0-3f), N Doran 0-3 (1f), E McNamee, T O'Flaherty 1-0 each, R Clarke 0-2, S Walsh 0-1. Skerries Harps: S Smith 2-4 (1-0 pen, 0-3f), C Murphy 1-2 (0-2f), K McGinnis 0-3, O McKey 1-0, M Kelly, R Clinton 0-1 each.
Clontarf: B Dufficy; C Kyne, C Doran, F Byrne; S Walsh, L Howley, C Mulhall; S O'Quigley, N Doran; T O'Flaherty, P Smyth, R Clarke; K Lillis, E McNamee, J McDonagh. Subs: K McKeown for Smyth (30), L Ennis for McNamee (37), R Goode for Mulhall (44), K Millar for O'Flaherty (47), C Keogh for Walsh (51).
Skerries Harps: C Rocks; S Dowling, F Geraghty, C Mullarkey; E McLoughlin, K Coyne, R McKey, D McIlgorm, A Fearon; K McGinnis, C Murphy, M Kelly; R Clinton, B McDonald, S Smith. Subs: O McKey for Clinton (ht), A El Shany for Mullarkey (ht), S Fearon for R McKey (34), T Carroll for McDonald (40), P Finn for Geraghty (55), D Boyd for Dowling (60).
Mentors - Clontarf: James Gahan, Papi McCaffrey, Tomás Ó Cuinneagáin, Fiachra Dodd, Declan Gahan, Brendan Smyth. Skerries Harps: Cian Geraghty, Tom Connolly, Damien Gilmore, Seán Rocks, Eddie Fynes.
REF: Darren Malone (St Mary's Saggart).
Wides: Clontarf 3 (2+1) Skerries Harps 3 (2+1).
Conditions: A strong wind and intermittent rain.
Player of the Game: Kevin Lillis (Clontarf).