St Vincent’s return to full strength gives them the edge
Portlaoise should be competitive but Dublin champions can keep Leinster club title
Tomnás Quinn: has proved a lethal threat for St Vincent’s attack this season. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Something of the reality of the progress by St Vincent’s in this year’s championship was reflected in the reaction of Tomás Quinn to the nerve-racking win over St Loman’s in the quarter-finals.
The Dublin champions had been reduced to 14 men almost immediately by the sending-off of Ger Brennan and were looking at a semi-final without both of their starters in Dublin’s All-Ireland win, as Diarmuid Connolly was also suspended after the county final replay.
“I don’t know,” he said afterwards. “There was a joke in the dressing room that we’re going back to our best 15 because we play without them all year anyway with Dublin!”
There was a ring of truth to the observation because even if the team obviously isn’t better without Connolly and Brennan, Vincent’s have had to manage without them for all but seven minutes of the provincial campaign to date. In their absence, the club has been driven by a calmly efficient defence, where High Gill and Brendan Egan have been prominent, the reliability of Eamon Fennell at centrefield and Quinn’s lethal probing up front.
In Dublin they showed enormous resilience against champions Ballymun, who for long stretches looked the better team and come into tomorrow’s final with a good record in Leinster, not having lost in the province for 30 years, albeit that the unbeaten sequence covers just three championships.
Portlaoise however have top the roll of honour in the province with seven titles and won’t be fazed by the Dublin champions. They have also discovered an urgency in performance since nailing down a seventh successive Laois title.
Mind you, they needed it against both Longford Slashers, who nearly eliminated them in normal time and Moorefield, who looked to have built a platform for winning the semi-final in the first half. Portlaoise’s ability to raise the tempo the last day left the Kildare champions standing.
Team captain Brian McCormack has scored vital goals in the provincial matches, including the one that turned the tables on Moorefield early in the second half, and Cahir Healy’s enduring excellence in defence is perhaps their most important asset.
They also have experience and a bit of depth on the bench. Recent performances against Dublin teams haven’t been great, including last year’s Leinster final defeat by Ballymun but there is a feeling that Portlaoise have found their chord this season. Will that be enough?
The view here is that it may not be. Once of the Laois side’s vulnerabilities has been an unimposing centrefield and although they are sharp enough to make things happen with a reduced supply, they won’t want to be inviting Vincent’s on to them.
Healy will presumably be marking Quinn and that should be some battle but Connolly will also need special attention. Brennan’s return adds clever distribution from the back and an ability to read danger but given that the two above mentioned are just back from suspension, discipline is going to be particularly important.
Another plus for Vincent’s is that Michael Savage is expected back after having to withdraw before the semi-final throw-in, which will further stabilise the defence.
Portlaoise have form but St Vincent’s have also had to battle and restored to full strength, deserve to be favourites.