U21 stars can fire Na Fianna to win
THE curtain will fall on the 2011 Dublin club football season when St Jude's and Na Fianna come face-to-face in the AFL1 final.
This novel pairing was settled after respective semi-final victories over St Sylvester's and St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh last Wednesday evening, with St Jude's impressing defensively -- conceding just five scores to a much heralded Syls attack.
Admittedly, the elements on such a horrid night in Parnell Park mitigated against free-flowing football, but Jude's would have been more than happy with the strength and protection provided down the centre by full-back Seán Breheny and Chris Guckian at centre-back.
A crucial factor in the Templeogue club's resurgence after a disappointing championship last summer has been the return from fitness of Brendan McManamon, with the Dublin panellist kicking five points in addition to offering a towering presence throughout.
Paul Maguire's development in recent times has been another welcome factor in Jude's reaching their second successive league final while Kevin McManamon is no stranger to finding the net on the big day.
Whether he can exert his customary influence will depend largely on the quality of possession that comes his way, and Na Fianna won't lack for confidence after restricting Plunkett's to just 11 points in their semi-final win (2-10 to 0-11).
Central to their impressive win was the display of the 2010 All-Ireland U21 winning captain Jonny Cooper, who gave a strong performance at midfield.
However, there is uncertainty over Cooper's availability as he is also a key member of the DCU team who are in O'Byrne Cup action. One way or another the Glasnevin men are still well placed to continue their upward curve at senior level, benefiting from the wonderful underage structures and success in place at St Mobhi Road.
Recent minor successes and two consecutive U21 'A' final appearances have led to the graduation to senior ranks of players such as John Kelly, David Quinn, Niall McGovern and Adam Caffrey.
Enda Ledwith has also deserved huge praise for a series of high quality displays and his personal battle with Kevin McManamon could go a long way in deciding the outcome.
If McManamon can plunder a goal or two, then St Jude's could well make up for last year's disappointment but Na Fianna might just possess sufficient momentum from their U21 side to prevail by a couple of points.
VERDICT: Na Fianna