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Wednesday 19 September 2018

Marino men's success was written in stars

Diarmuid Connolly, St Vincents. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Diarmuid Connolly, St Vincents. Picture: Caroline Quinn

STANDING room only in Parnell Park. Another night at the opera. An electric encore under the lights. The rain stopped just in time. The Clery Cup didn't need an umbrella as it made the short journey across the Malahide Road.

Another Dublin Senior Championship title for the aristocrats of Dublin football. Their silver jubilee crown clinched by a golden point from Cameron Diamond.

On the pitch after the presentation, the match-winning hero was warmly embraced by his Dad, Tony, a man steeped in the blue and white blood. The St Vincent's manager, Tommy Conroy, waited outside the pavilion as the players left the pitch. He hugged them all.

Not far away, was the mural of Kevin Heffernan. The Marino folk were saying that this victory was written in the stars.

"This was a very special year in the club," agreed Tommy. "I'm sure there are a few Vincent's heroes looking down who helped the guys through tonight. It's huge for the club."

Straight after the game, the Vincent's squad went for a swim. And then there was the home-coming to Pairc Naomh Uinsionn.

"We'll enjoy the night. We won't go overboard. You don't have to have alcohol to have a bit of craic," noted Tommy as the new Dublin champions prepare to face St Loman's in Mullingar on Sunday.

When they last lifted the chalice in 2007, Vins went on to collect the Andy Merrigan Cup. Their manager, Mickey Whelan, was in the audience.

But, as ever, getting out of Dublin was the trick. "It is an incredible achievement to win a Dublin championship. The toughest thing for any Dublin team is to get out of Dublin," insisted Tommy.

"We'll focus in on the Loman's match over the next couple of days. They won their first Westmeath title in so many years, so they won't go away too easily on Sunday."

As Tommy was talking, the Ballymun boss, Paul Curran, emerged from the dressing-room and drove off quietly into the north Dublin night. Deep disappointment for the magnificent Mun.

On his way out, Ted Furman paused and gave Mossy Quinn a well-done pat on the head.

The Vincent's chief had praise for the club who came within a knuckle of All-Ireland gold last season. Conry said: "I thought Ballymun were excellent tonight. They were very good in the tackle. I think it was just sheer doggedness that saw us over the line by a point. It was a great winning score.

"But the players on both sides were incredible. They showed great courage and spirit. It was tremendous to see them come out three days after the extra-time game on Sunday and put on another show. Both sides deserve tremendous credit."

Like on Sunday, Vincent's had to endure an early Ballymun blitz. "We had talked about that, but they still managed to get the start on us. We recovered and again it all comes down to the players. I don't know where they find it, but they have such resolve.

"I can't praise them enough. They are just fantastic. People talk about the great Vincent's teams going back over the decades, but these fellas are just something else.

"I have never seen a team like them. I can recall I played in a game against Ballymun – I think it was 1984 - and we were 11 points down at half-time. Tony Hanahoe kicked a goal and we won by a point. But I have never seen anything like this group. We are all so proud of them."

At times it was hard for the players to keep their feet on the slippy sod and to hang onto the ball. The half-time tannoy asked for people to stay off the pitch. Two little tots, no more than four or five and dressed in the blue jackets of St Vincent's, breached security. They played one-on-one down at the church goal. The crowd loved it. Their little duel raised some of the biggest cheers of the night.

The chilly climate didn't lack hot air, especially late on when two players were sent off, Ballymun's Philly McMahon and Vincent's Diarmuid Connolly. "I have heard other managers say this, but I genuinely didn't see the incident. The referee blew for a free, I turned around, so I didn't see what happened," explained Tommy.

Tommy will now have to lift the lads for Sunday. "It's a nice headache to have. I have no doubt that there are people with aches and sores. Sometimes when you win, the aches and pains go away a little bit quicker."

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