Vin's can dig deep and bury 'Hill men
AIB LEINSTER CLUB SFC SEMI-FINAL
ST VINCENT'S (Dublin) v SUMMERHILL (Meath) (Parnell Park, Tomorrow 2.0)
THE champions of Dublin are without their two most decorated players. The champions of Meath have no such selection woes.
And yet the former are a prohibitive 1/5 in the betting: all of which tells you something about the sky-high reputation of Dublin club football, the mundane status of its Meath equivalent ... or a mixture of both.
By now, you're doubtless aware that St Vincent's re-enter the Leinster cauldron without Ger Brennan and Diarmuid Connolly – each the recipient of two Celtic Crosses with their county over the past three seasons, each (in his own way) pivotal to their club's return to the Dublin summit.
And yet you can't quite say they are indispensable, can you? Brennan may be their skipper and driving force from centre-back, Connolly their mercurial font of forward creativity ... and yet, for 53 minutes in Mullingar last Sunday week, Vincent's survived in their absence.
Connolly was already suspended for that provincial opener against St Loman's. Brennan joined him in the Cusack Park stand after his early red. If ever their team looked ripe for plunder – down a man, down their two marquee Dubs, facing their third championship match inside eight days – this was that moment.
Instead, as has been their thrilling trademark this autumn/winter, the Vinnies dug deep and thrived in adversity. Full-backs put the squeeze on Loman's danger men. Eamon Fennell dominated the midfield skies. And the outnumbered Tomás Quinn worked his magic in the face of tenacious attention, fair and foul.
The former Dublin freetaker has been the most important player during Vin's last two outings – the county final replay against Ballymun and their Leinster quarter-final.
It's entirely possible, even likely given the above suspensions, that he'll be asked to reprise that role tomorrow.
What happens if Mossy's well of inspiration suddenly runs dry? Good question: it would certainly level the playing field and give the 9/2 outsiders from Meath a sniff at upsetting the odds.
And yet there are several compelling reasons to support the bookies' position, if not quite at such lopsided odds.
Vincent's are at home; they know every contour of the pitch, whereas Donnycarney is new terrain for Summerhill. The competition itself isn't, but their memories of 2011 against Dublin's finest scarcely bodes well: they were hammered in Navan by St Brigid's, 2-15 to 0-11.
This year, in fairness, they've already revealed a more serious provincial intent and also a capacity to win on the road by dint of their 2-13 to 1-13 victory over Newtown Blues.
That's an impressive tally for a forward line that doesn't possess any high-profile county stars (wing-forward David Larkin is on the Meath panel), especially in November conditions. And yet it goes without saying that tomorrow is not just a step-up on what they faced in Meath, but also in Drogheda.
Conor Gillespie will, doubtless, be pivotal to their chances. With John Heslin deployed elsewhere, St Loman's were unable to lay a midfield glove on the high-fielding Fennell during the first half in Mullingar. Gillespie, though, has the height and inter-county calibre to make this a real contest between the two 45s.
Summerhill hopes would soar even higher if Davy Dalton were fit to play the hour after his lengthy injury absence ended with a late five-minute cameo against the Blues. But that's a big ask.
So even though they can't boast like-for-like replacements for Brennan and Connolly, St Vincent's have deeper resources than most. Rested and ready, they should advance to the final.
BOYLESPORTS ODDS: St Vincent's 1/5, Draw 10/1, Summerhill 9/2
VERDICT: St Vincent's