St Vincent’s 1-8 Ballymun Kickhams 0-8
St Vincent’s are Dublin champions again, getting it done any which way they can. They came through a tepid final in Parnell Park despite only playing in fits and starts and missing a hatful of chances to make it easier on themselves. By name alone, they will be heavy favourites wherever their Leinster Championship journey goes from here. On this evidence, however, they needn’t be thought of as monstrous.
They looked the superior side here for most of the night but struggled to turn appearances into scoreboard reality. They missed a world of chances, going 15 minutes either side of half-time without scoring and registering their last point of the night in the 49th of 64 minutes. If they’d come up against a sterner test, there’s no guarantee they’d have passed it.
As it was, survival looked to be Ballymun's ceiling for most of the first half. With Diarmuid Connolly in dangerously fluid form, St Vincent's needed only to have been a little sharper in front of goal and they'd have been away in a hack.
They had 1-4 on the board by half-time but missed another 2-4; Ballymun, by contrast, had scored four points from a mere six shots. It was a lop-sided, one-note half of football, with only a couple of injury-time scores from Dean Rock and Carl Keeley to take the bad look of it for Ballymun.
Though he faded from matters as the game went on, Connolly was supreme in that opening period. His goal came on 13 minutes, a scythe through the middle of the Ballymun defence after his marker Philly McMahon had coughed up possession out around midfield and a sweet low finish past Evan Comerford. He fisted a point soon after and had the last pass for two more.
McMahon was shadowing him without ever really threatening his personal space. John Small went onto him for the second half and gave him a far more rigorous going-over. Connolly's main contribution after the restart was a gorgeous ball from a free to set up Enda Varley for the first Vincent's score of the half. Otherwise, Small was a constant pain.
Small on Connolly for the second half was the kind of clash we thought we’d see all over the pitch throughout. But the game disappointed on so many levels.
The shooting was ragged, the hits were oddly uninvolved - one early earth-shaker from James McCarthy on Nathan Mullins excepted. It just never caught fire.
Yet for all the defending champions’ dominance, they were leaving Ballymun in the game. Rock iced an early free soon after the break, Jason Whelan curled a lovely effort. Just like that, the gap was down to two, 1-5 to 0-6. All it needed was for Ballymun snag a goal or too keep chipping away with frees from Rock and they could have snuck it.
But Vincent’s would never have forgiven themselves. Mossy Quinn finagled a couple of scores back-to-back and stretched the lead to four again on 47 minutes. They carried years of experience in them, one a free, one a sniped effort while falling backwards. From there on, they were able to keep Ballymun at arm’s length.
In truth, they were blessed by their opposition. Ballymun never played like the heavy favourites they’d been made pre-game. Only wing-back Carl Keeley was providing any sort of thrust, bombing forward for a brilliant score in the first half and almost getting in for a goal in the second.
That chance, on 50 minutes after a slick one-two with Dean Rock, was the saving of the game for Vincent’s. Had Keeley found the net then, Ballymun would have only been a point down with 10 minutes left and all the momentum behind them. As it was, it was the last score of a thoroughly ordinary game.
Connolly’s influence had waned by now, so much so that he started snatching at chances in an effort to get himself going again. He missed with his last three shots at the posts, shanked wides that made him look a different player to the one who had bossed the first half. It was sloppy stuff, fitting for the kind of game it had become.
By the end, it was Connolly’s goal that Vincent’s had to spare. They move on to face Wicklow champions Rathnew now, looking to defen their Leinster title. On this evidence, they’re no sure thing to still hold that title by year’s end.
St Vincent's: Michael Savage; Michael Concarr, Jarlath Curley, Craig Wilson (0-1); Cameron Diamond, Ger Brennan, Brendan Egan; Lorcan Galvin, Nathan Mullins; Gavin Burke (0-1), Diarmuid Connolly (1-1), Cormac Diamond; Enda Varley (0-2, 0-1 free), Shane Carthy (0-1), Tomás Quinn (0-2, 0-1 free). Subs: Daithi Murphy for Galvin, half-time; Ruairi Trainor for Varley, 53 mins; Joe Feeney for G Burke, 49 mins; Tiernan Diamond for Cormac Diamond, 57 mins; E Fennell for Mullins, 64 mins; Luke Sheehy for Cameron Diamond, 65 mins
Ballymun Kickhams: Evan Comerford; Philly McMahon, Eoin Dolan, Alan Hubbard; Carl Keeley (0-2), John Small, James Burke; Aaron Elliott, James McCarthy; Jason Whelan (0-2), Dean Rock (0-3, 0-3 frees), Kevin Leahy; Eoin O'Neill, Paddy Small (0-1), Davey Byrne. Subs: Colm Hulton for Leahy, 54 mins; Ted Furman for E O'Neill, 57 mins
Referee: David O'Connor (Dublin)