Sunday 20 January 2019

fins fit the bill

Holy Grail may finally be in their sights

Fingallians' greater fitness proved to their benefit as they overcame a brave Na Fianna challenge by the narrowest of margins in their Dublin Intermediate Football Championship quarter-final at Parnell Park last Friday evening.

After suffering the heartache of final defeats over the past two years, the Swords club looked dead and buried as they trailed by five points with ten minutes remaining but a well-taken goal from David Killeen rewarded increased levels of possession and they maintained that control after forcing extra-time.

Sadly, the absorbing encounter ended on a sour note with Na Fianna's disappointment at a levelling score being disallowed leading to some unedifying scenes at the final whistle.

That most supporters felt the need to concentrate on that isolated controversial incident was regretful, given the entertainment and effort that both sides provided over 80 minutes of high-octane football.

Central to Fingallians' win was the performance of Donal Keane, with the wing-back giving a typically classy display in addition to kicking a brace of sublime points from play.

Killeen's contribution should not be underestimated either as he plundered two opportunistic goals while at the opposite end of the field, Rossa Kelleher produced a hugely competent display between the sticks for Fingallians.

Both sides started in an enterprising manner with Na Fianna opening the scoring in the 2nd minute following a powerful burst from centrefield by Patrick Collins.

Parity was restored soon after with Fingallians eventually finding the target after a couple of initial wides through a long-distance strike from Killeen. However, Na Fianna looked more assured on the slippery surface in the early stages and the pace of their inside-forward line unsettled the Fingallians defence at times.

After Thomas Connell had restored the Glasnevin side's lead in the 5th minute, Na Fianna doubled that advantage through a well-worked score from wing-forward Colin Ryan two minutes later.

Fingallians replied through the tireless Ciaran McLoughlin soon after and the same player was denied what seemed a certain goal in the 9th minute with his precise shot tipped away to safety superbly by Na Fianna netminder Eoin Butler.

Despite Na Fianna extending their lead through Gareth Ryan, their opponents were awarded a penalty in the 11th minute after Paul Flynn had been impeded and Mark Gibson's resultant conversion handed Fingallians the lead for the first time.

The remainder of the half was similarly tight with Na Fianna's more assured interplay and points from Joseph McGuirk, Connell, Ciaran McKane and James Higgins ensuring a deserved 0-9 to 1-4 interval cushion.

The Mobhi Road club began to punish some increasingly lax Fingallians shooting upon the restart as they opened up a sizeable advantage through an excellent score by Higgins and further efforts by Ryan and Connell. However, they retreated further towards their own goal as the half developed, allowing their opponents to enjoy a monopoly on possession in the middle third and after Keane's shot was parried by Butler in the 52nd minute, Killeen handed his side a lifeline with an emphatic first-time strike.

McLoughlin added a telling score soon after and Flynn levelled matters in the 58th minute before Gibson failed to land an injury-time free to settle the tie in normal time.

The pattern of the second-half was maintained in extra-time with Fingallians resuming on the front foot and Killeen's goal from Flynn's pass after five minutes looked a decisive body blow.

However, Na Fianna's character could not be faulted and a cracking goal by McGuirk at the end of the first period restored parity once again between the well-matched sides.

Successive points by Keane and Gibson restored Fins' position of control but after Jack Dolan responded for Na Fianna, Kieran Houlihan looked to have salvaged a replay when fisting over Senan Connell's centre but the score was chalked off after an alleged foul on Kelleher, much to the chagrin of the Glasnevin club.

Scorers - Fingallians: D Killeen 2-1, M Gibson 1-2 (1-0pen), D Keane, C McLoughlin, P Flynn 0-2 each. Na Fianna: J McGuirk 1-1, G Ryan 0-3, P Collins (0-1 '45'), T Connell, J Higgins (1f) 0-2 each, C Ryan, C McKane, J Dolan, I McGowan 0-1 each.

Fingallians: R Kelleher; D Fagan, D Clarke, N Fagan; D Keane, C Costello, G Campbell; D Campion, G Donnelly; C McLoughlin, D Killeen, D Farrell; E Creamer, P Flynn, M Gibson. Subs: R Deasy for Creamer (half-time), E Collins for Farrell (49), D Deasy for Costello (58), P Graves for Collins (71), D Markey for Deasy (78).

Na Fianna: E Butler; N McKenna, R Breen, D Kennedy; S Dunne, M Cooper, N Moran; J McGuirk, P Collins; C Ryan, K Houlihan, J Higgins; T Connell, C McKane, G Ryan. Subs: F Aughney for Dunne (24), J Kearns for Ryan (41), J Dolan for McKane (51), B Boland for T Connell (55), S Connell for Higgins (63), D McGowan for Collins (67),

Mentors - Fingallians: Sean O'Toole, Stephen Daly, Alan Hanrahan, Bernard Fagan. Na Fianna: Kevin Bulman, Tommy McKane, Harry O'Donnell, Brian McManus.

Referee: Tony Lame (St Vincent's)

Wides: Fingallians: 17 (7+7+3) Na Fianna: 9 (3+3+3)

Conditions: Drizzly initially but a pleasant evening in Dublin 5.

Player of the Game: Donal Keane (Fingallians)

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