Cool Connolly earns St Vincent’s another go at Dublin SFC success
With the referee preparing to blow full-time, centre forward kicks the equalising free
Ballymun’s Davey Byrne (left) tries to get to grips with the threat of St Vincent’s centre forward Diarmuid Connolly during the Dublin SFC final at Parnell Park. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Rather fittingly, perhaps, a large banner with a portrait of Kevin Heffernan was unfurled on the terrace behind the goal as Diarmuid Connolly nodded away the customary free-taker Mossy Quinn and assumed the responsibility for the 40-metre free.
With ball in hand, and the referee’s watch already into added time, Connolly looked and looked again towards the posts and then exquisitely executed the kick for the point that tied the Dublin senior football championship final and guaranteed a return back for more.
That replay will take place at Parnell Park on Wednesday night (7.45) and, in truth, few of those gathered in the stands or on the terraces will complain at having a second helping.
If Ballymun Kickhams, the defending champions, might wonder how it all slipped away on them, not once but twice, the resolve and never-say-die spirit of Vincent’s proved to be an admirable trait.
“I had the fingers crossed,” quipped Vincent’s manager Tommy Conroy, before expanding: “Look, Diarmuid’s had a great year. I think when he was called upon, you saw the answer that he gave.
“I had every confidence in him doing things like that. He is a marvellous player.”
Connolly’s final act in the drama epitomised the desire that kept Vincent’s going, especially when Ballymun had seemed to have gotten the job done.
In what was an absorbing game and a fitting showcase for football in the capital, Ballymun looked set to retain the title: as the game moved into the 59th minute, Conor Weir kicked a point that gave them a five points lead. Done deal, you’d imagine. But it wasn’t.
From the resulting kick-out, Vincent’s moved up the field to create a blue-and-white wave with a move that ended with Ruairi Trainor feeding Kevin Golden, who made no mistake to fire home the game’s only goal.
It gave Vincent’s a lifeline, and it was taken. Within seconds, the hugely impressive Gavin Burke – who would end up with six points, all from play – fired over a point to reduce the deficit to a single point.
And, after winning possession from the kick out, Connolly picked out Shane Carthy, who manfully kicked the equalising point to force extra-time.
That it came to the death was something of a mystery.
Ballymun, who got off to a blistering start with three points inside the opening two minutes, had reached the half-time of normal time with a three point advantage – 0-8 to 0-5 – after holding Vincent’s scoreless for 13 minutes.
It could have been more. Andy O’Brien’s first-time shot off the ground in the 28th minute crashed back off the crossbar.
The momentum seemed to be with Ballymun as the teams took a break from the frenetic pace.
On the resumption, though, Vincent’s showed their fight. It started with a sublime point. Connolly sucked in three Ballymun defenders in the corner and hit a crossfield pass to Burke, who hit the first of his three quick-fire points that was augmented by a Quinn free that moved the Marino men into a one-point lead.
In taking a page from Vincent’s book, Ballymun showed their own resolve and five unanswered points – from five different players in Weir, James McCarthy, Dean Rock, Derek Byrne and Kevin Leahy – restored their advantage to four points.
After a couple of tit-for-tat scores, Ballymun, inspired by a fine Seán Currie save from Trainor, kicked on and Weir’s point seemed to have finished matters until Vincent’s late flurry forced extra-time.
Vincent’s carried that momentum into the first period of extra-time, moving two points clear – 1-16 to 0-17 – after Burke kicked his sixth point from play.
The response from Ballymun was impressive, with two pointed frees from Rock (the second for a Carthy foul on Alan Hubbard which led to the Vincent’s man’s dismissal for a second yellow card) and then Rock feeding Ted Furman for a point to reclaim the lead for Ballymun.
Furman had a chance to put the game out of sight late on, but went for goal and Michael Savage brilliantly saved.
Rock sent the resulting 45 wide and then exited the game with a knee injury. There was time for one final play, with Ballymun conceding what manager Paul Curran claimed was a “silly free” from which Connolly had the final say.
“There are areas we need to improve on, there’s a lot of tired bodies (but) we’ll go again on Wednesday,” said Curran, whilst opposite number Conroy remarked: “We’re very happy we got another crack at this.”
All to play for. Still.The winners will move on to the Leinster club meeting with Westmeath’s St Loman’s next Sunday.