First title for Jude's
Kevin McManamon stars as Templeogue men edge out Na Fianna for league crown
THE patron saint of hopeless or lost causes? Think again!
St Jude's captured the 2011 AFL 1 title -- their first ever -- with 1-13 to 0-10 an extra-time victory over Na Fianna at Balgriffin yesterday.
The game was played in horrendous conditions, a heavy pitch and torrential rain played havoc at times, but despite this and given the time of year, both teams can be quietly satisfied with their showing.
Na Fianna, however, having led from the start to finish in regulation time, will be disappointed that they didn't see the game out and three points in 50 minutes of football represents a poor return.
The winners struggled to get through their opponents defensive wall in the opening half and trailed by 0-7 to 0-4 at the break, as Na Fianna's Johnny Cooper, David Quinn and Senan Connell all hit a brace apiece from limited possession.
Indeed, old warhorse Connell again showed he still had a lot to offer at this level with a shift at full forward.
But Jude's Dublin star Kevin McManamon would soon drag his team back into the game.
His three points in the first 10 minutes after the restart came at a vital time in the game. He also set up his brother, Brendan, for another in the same spell, while he twice brought fine saves from Na Fianna goalkeeper Cian Kelleher.
Jude's were becoming dominant in the middle where Dublin panellist Colly Murphy grew more and more in influence, and centre forward Shane Gallagher was also impressive, kicking three points from play including one to tie the scores at 0-8 apiece on 50 minutes.
However, the Glasnevin side still looked the more likely to take the title when they regained their lead thanks to a long-range Ciaran Duignan free and a super effort from Brian Courtney.
Yet another McManamon score set up a tense finale as Na Fianna found their goal under siege and the resilience was broken when Declan Donnelly slotted over from close range to ensure a draw at the end of normal time, 0-10 each.
As the teams went into their huddles at the final whistle to prepare for extra-time, no one in attendance would have predicted how much Jude's would dominate thereafter.
They key moment came just four minutes in. Again Kevin McManamon was heavily involved when his attempted shot dropped short just outside the small rectangle. A scramble ensued but the ball eventually fell to substitute Ger McManus, who finished soccer style to the bottom corner.
McManamon almost raised a second green flag a minute later but, after beating Kelleher, he was denied by a brilliant diving save from Niall Cooper.
The dangerous Na Fianna forward line were simply starved of possession after that, making it impossible for them to get back on terms.
Paul Cunningham, Darren Gallagher and man of the match McManamon all kicked points in the second 10 minutes of extra time to put the game beyond doubt.
A very positive start to the year for the Templeogue men, who will hope to build on this in their quest for further glories in 2012.