St Vincent’s have edge in latest east-west joust

Castlebar must stop Vincent’s setting terms of engagement to keep hopes alive

Castlebar’s Barry Moran and Damian Burke of Corofin in the Connacht club semi-final. Photograph: Inpho

Castlebar’s Barry Moran and Damian Burke of Corofin in the Connacht club semi-final. Photograph: Inpho


Today, Croke Park, 3.40 – Live on TG4

Like a barroom brawl in the Wild West, Dublin and Mayo seem to be spilling through doors from room to room in Croke Park over the past couple of seasons: an All-Ireland semi-final, league semi-final, All-Ireland final, and now a senior club final all in the space of about 18 months.

Given the structure of the AIB club championship this afternoon’s pairing may be as much caprice as confirmation of the counties’ high standing but a telling coincidence none the less.

Both have made slightly unexpected journeys to this stage but neither are newcomers to the St Patrick’s Day stage. Vincent’s have a tendency to surge once out of Dublin but in a roller-coaster Leinster championship they survived suspensions and sendings-off to emerge unscathed.

Castlebar had an even harder provincial campaign, travelling to and defeating Galway power-houses Corofin and All-Ireland champions St Brigid’s. Their tight defence and versatility – Barry Moran had a big match at centrefield in the county final against Mayo’s All-Ireland pairing of the O’Shea brothers, but switched to full forward in last month’s semi-final – saw them add the scalp of Kerry’s Dr Croke’s, a victory overshadowed by the season-ending injury to Colm Cooper.

They have been equal to a series of mounting challenges.

The challenge today will be to stop Vincent’s setting the terms of engagement.

Early scores in the semi-final put Ballinderry on the back foot and although they struggled back into contention, they were unable to press on.

Castlebar should be able to contest one area of strength for the Dublin champions, whose ability to break and clean up ball in the middle fuelled their successful phases.

If there’s a decisive advantage it’s in attack. Vincent’s veteran corner forward Tomás Quinn has used ball frugally and to great effect, but when Ballinderry countered him in the second half, Diarmuid Connolly stepped up and supplied the cutting edge.

It should be tight but that edge is with the Dubliners.

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