Sunday 17 December 2017

Marino men so close to pulling off great escape


THERE are certain discernable trends that football matches tend to follow, be it All-Ireland senior finals or junior club cup matches.

One of the most common and, certainly among the most compelling, is the one where a team looks poised to romp to victory before a curious shift in momentum unhinges them altogether and the opposition who, at one stage seemed doomed to lowly failure, come roaring back.

St Vincent's have made a habit of such smash-and-grab victories this year and, at one point in yesterday's Evening Herald Dublin SFC semi-final with Kilmaucd Crokes, they looked set to add another to their portfolio.

Having been completely outplayed by a work-hungry Crokes outfit for the first 40 minutes of the match, Vincent's turned the game on its axis, kicked 1-3 without reply and grabbed a decisive stranglehold on the midfield battle that every one of David Nestor's kick-outs came back in on top of the Crokes' defence.


Paddy Carr later described it as "trying to hold back the Liffey with your two hands".

Tomás Quinn -- so reliable all year from placed balls -- stubbed a relatively easy chance into the ground, an opportunity which would have reduced Vincent's arrears to just a point.

Then, Austin O'Malley, who had drifted out of the match before roaring back into view in the second half, kicked a wide and then dropped another shot short. Sub Kevin Golden shanked another wide with his favoured left boot.

And that quartet of chances will be the ones that Vincent's rue week as Crokes prepare for a final clash with St Brigid's this coming Sunday (Parnell Park, 4pm).

Quinn's converted free left the minimum between the teams at the end when, finally, Crokes won one of their own kick-outs and substitute Mark Vaughan rambled up the wing to win a pressure-relieving free.

He put the ball wide but referee Brian O'Shea blew up after the next kick-out and Crokes were back in the final. Just.

Yet, at half-time, their place in the decider never looked even remotely in question. A savage work ethic and slick movement contributed to their 1-6 to 0-4 lead at the break, with the accuracy of Barry O'Rorke a telling factor, and they went seven up just a minute into the second half. There was, however, a smidgeon of good fortune about their goal -- a penalty from Brian Kavanagh.

A long, high ball towards the square prompted the usual spate of jostling from those under the drop, but ref O'Shea deemed Conor Brady's contact on Kavanagh as a push and awarded the spot kick. The Longford man made no mistake, though, drilling the penalty low and hard to Michael Savage's right. That score came in the eighth minute and was Crokes' first of the match, but it sparked them to life.

Notably, the O'Carroll brothers, Ross and Rory, were keeping Vincent's danger men, Tomás Quinn and Diarmuid Connolly, under lock and key, except for a dashing effort from the latter in the sixth minute and a brilliantly taken goal in the 51st minute.

Cian O'Sullivan had a brilliant game. The Dublin defender barely gave Ciarán Dorney a sniff of the ball and his forays were effective and smart. His county cohort, Niall Corkery, had a sublime patch towards the end of the first half, fetching kick-outs, turning over ball and using it wisely.

Vincent's were reliant on the industry of O'Malley and the buzzing Ruairí Trainor for any sort of attacking energy, though it must be noted that, by the time the second half started, they were shorn of their three best defenders.

Ger Brennan watched from the sidelines -- a hamstring injury kept him out -- while Paul Conlon pulled up in the warm up and was replaced by Timmy Doyle. Vincent's other Dublin defensive panellist, Hugh Gill, was replaced at half-time, leaving the Marino men short on quality in that area. Yet the weight of their absentees does not come close to those of their opponents yesterday. Crokes took to the pitch without Paul Griffin, Mark Davoren, Darren Magee, Kevin Nolan and Mark Vaughan -- though the latter two were on the pitch by the end of the match.

Vaughan, in particular, could prove a big player for Crokes if his hamstrings hold up. He spent the moments before the match pinging placed balls from every distance and angle right between the posts and he is likely to be sprung from the bench on Sunday against Brigid's.

Still, what will alarm Crokes' management is the lull which afflicted their team so soon after it appeared they could do no wrong.

Trainor spurned a decent goal chance in the 33rd minute, opting to kick a point rather than square to Quinn when a goal would have provided some momentum to the Vincent's comeback.

They got one eventually, though, when Connolly turned towards goal after Trainor's pass and clincially drilled his left-footed effort to the corner of Nestor's net. With 10 minutes remaining on the clock and just three points in it, another monumentalc omeback didn't look completely unrealistic, but Vincent's couldn't make their newfound dominance count any more than Quinn's frees -- as Crokes survived.

SCORERS - Kilmacud Crokes: B Kavanagh 1-4 (1-0 pen, 2f), B O'Rorke 0-4 (1f), D Kelleher 0-2. St Vincent's: D Connolly 1-2, T Quinn 0-5 (4f, 1 sideline), A O'Malley, R Trainor 0-1 each.

KILMACUD CROKES: D Nestor; Ross O'Carroll, Rory O'Carroll, C Lamb; C O'Sullivan, B McGrath, R Ryan; P Duggan, N Corkery; L Ó hEineachain; D Kelleher, A Morrissey; B O'Rorke, B Kavanagh, P Burke. Subs: C Dias for Morrissey (46), K Nolan for McGrath (52), R Cosgrove for O'Rorke (57), M Vaughan for Kelleher (60).

ST VINCENT'S: M Savage; H Gill, E Brady, W Lowry; A Murphy, S Byrne, T Doyle; C Brady, S Lawlor; T Diamond, A O'Malley, C Dorney; R Trainor, D Connolly, T Quinn. Subs: R Conlon for Gill (h-t), A Baxter for Dorney (41), K Golden for C Brady (41), M Concar for Doyle (42).

REFEREE: Brian O'Shea (St Mark's).

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