St Vincents hurdle first challenge in Leinster title defence

Dublin champions rediscover their edge in the second half to defeat Portlaoise easily

St Vincents 3-11 Portlaoise 0-10

All-Ireland champions St Vincents strode on to the Leinster semi-finals after a comfortable win over Portlaoise today.

A sustained second-half barrage, including 2-1 from Shane Carthy and smart energetic work by his companions in the half forwards Diarmuid Connolly and Gavin Burke, undid the home side, who had battled back from a poor opening to shave the deficit to a point at half-time.

In the battle of competing impairments, the form of the recently perennial Laois champions was said not to be as good as last year when they ran Vincent's close in the provincial.


For their part, the Dublin club hadn’t been beaten in championship football in more than two years and if there is the familiar risk of metal fatigue for the All-Ireland holders it hasn’t yet been in evidence.

As manager Tommy Conroy pointed out afterwards, when a team is winning weariness is seldom an issue.

Reminiscent of last year’s final, the early exchanges saw Vincents threaten to overwhelm the home side.

Connolly demonstrated the usual bag of tricks, effortlessly controlling the ball in seasonally slippery conditions and threatening to run riot. He contented himself with a central role in all three scores, as the Dublin champions went 1-2 up in the first four minutes.

He was fouled for the first point, converted by Mossy Quinn, took his accomplished marker Cahir Healy for a tour before kicking the second and then set up a goal for Quinn, who inelegantly dispatched the ball to the net having been fouled in the act of finishing.

In truth, there might have been three goals scored before the scoreboard clock reached double digits – Gavin Burke and Ruairi Trainor got nothing from excellent positions – but again, like last year, Vincents drifted out of proceedings, as if the swashbuckling start had taken a terrible toll on their sense of urgency.

AFL career

They continued to create openings but lacked penetration in attack and gradually Portlaoise began to think that the worst might be over. Zach Touhy, home on holidays from his AFL career with Carlton, played well initially at at full forward but his impact waned as the match wore on.

Paul Cahillane, looking sharp when opportunities fell his way, kicked a couple of points from play and Vincents became more and more listless – to the point that they led by the minimum at the break, 1-4 to 0-6.

Local optimism was on the rise and the match would be decided by whether the Dublin champions could pull themselves together.

“Thankfully, when we got them in at half-time, we talked about what needed to be done,” said Vincents' Tommy Conroy (in a Mylesian touch, both managers have the same name).

“We were doing a lot of good things, like last year – it was just the finishing; we weren’t finishing the moves off and we put that to rights quickly.

“(The) early second goal – it was exactly what we needed.”

A brisk-tempo move ended with Carthy striking the second goal within three minutes of the resumption and Vincent's were off on another hot streak.

Ten minutes later, Connolly hit a tantalising free into the goalmouth. Portlaoise goalkeeper Micky Nolan came thundering out and took man but, sadly for him, not ball, allowing the waiting Carthy to pop his second goal into an empty net. This made the score 3-6 to 0-7 – in other words the winners had outscored their hosts 2-2 to 0-1 in the opening quarter of the second half.

The contest was now over.


A year ago Portlaoise had got three goals themselves but in the absence of any this time, they were never going to get back into the match.

Their plight appeared to tug at the heartstrings of referee Anthony Nolan, who decided to overlook the already yellow-carded home full back Paul Cotter’s extravagant attempt to force Ger Brennan into giving him a piggyback.

Soon after, his patience presumably worn thin, the Wicklow referee showed Kieran Lillis a black card for doing something similar to Connolly.

Tuohy agreed afterwards that Vincent's might have had more goals and said that he had enjoyed the challenge of re-acclimatising to his native game.

“They could have. We had chances as well. Some of the goals they got they got at good times and we probably should have done a lot better than we did.

“I love it, any chance I get to come back and play with Portlaoise is still kind of where my heart is.

“Those losses are every bit as hard as losses out there.”

Vincent's will face Westmeath’s Garrycastle in the Leinster semi-final with no sign that the strain of defending their titles is threatening to derail them.

ST VINCENT'S: M Savage; K Bonnie, J Curley, H Gill; B Egan, G Brennan, M Concarr; E Fennell, D Murphy; G Burke, D Connolly (0-3, 0-2 frees), S Carthy (2-2); R Trainor (0-1), T Quinn (1-3, 0-3 frees), C Dorney. Subs: Cameron Diamond for Murphy (43 mins), Cormac Diamond (0-2) for Dorney (47 mins), T Diamond for Burke (55 mins), M Loftus for Trainor (60 mins).
PORTLAOISE: M Nolan; D Seale, P Cotter, B Mulligan; E Whelan, C Healy, C Boyle; K Lillis, S Nerney; G Dillon, B McCormack (0-1), B Glynn; P Cahillane (0-6, 0-4 frees), Z Tuohy (0-1), C Rogers (0-2, one free). Subs: E Feane for Boyle, A Kelly for Nerney (both 35 mins), M McNulty for Whelan (41 mins), R Maher for Cotter (47 mins), M Rogers for Lillis (51 mins, black card), G Brody for Dillon (55 mins). Referee: A Nolan (Wickow).

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times