St Vincent’s are either ultra experienced and deliberately playing within themselves or a tired team that’s there for the taking.
Rhode, their AIB Leinster club football final opponents on Sunday week, will be banking on the latter as they chase down a breakthrough title and revenge for defeat to the Dubliners in 2014.
Vincent’s midfielder Shane Carthy accepts that the 2008 and 2014 All-Ireland champions have been “struggling along” in recent weeks but also pointed to the bottom line — they’re still winning games.
They beat Lucan Sarsfields by three points in the county quarter-finals and Ballymun by a single point before conjuring a series of late scores to see off first-time finalists Castleknock.
On paper, their provincial form has been better, though eight and seven-point wins over the Carlow and Longford champions mask the fact that for two-thirds of both games there was nothing between the teams.
“It’s been a strange old year,” admitted Carthy. “We’ve been struggling along, not particularly playing very well but at the same time getting wins. Good teams can get wins when they’re up against it and in fairness it’s never easy going to a place like Longford where we were last weekend.
“We lost there with Dublin at the start of the year. So that just goes to show it’s not an easy place to come.”
Carthy and clubmate Jarlath Curley were part of that Dublin team that lost in the O’Byrne Cup at Glennon Brothers Pearse Park last January, the team’s only defeat all year.
Bookending the season with surprise defeats at the midlands venue seemed a possibility last weekend when Vins led by just a point with 13 minutes to go.
But true to recent form, they finished strongly and Carthy says the sense that they won’t be beaten no matter how mediocre they’re playing is strong.
“We’ve always done enough,” he said. “We have a strong panel too. We have lads coming in that really make a difference. They’re game-changers, really. We’ve five or six subs coming in during every game that we know are going to help us over the line and I think that really is the big thing this year, we just have a really strong squad.”
Joe Feeney played for Armagh in this year’s Championship but is only an impact sub for Vincent’s and scored an important point when introduced in Longford. Enda Varley, a two-time All-Ireland finalist with Mayo, has had a huge influence in his first season with the club, scoring four points in the county final and laying on the crucial goal last Sunday as well as contributing 0-2.
Elsewhere in the squad there are current or former county players from Dublin, Westmeath, Sligo, and Galway.
“Tomás Quinn seems to be still getting better, Diarmuid Connolly is obviously there so there’s lads we all look to to drive the team on but at the end of the day, it’s a bit of belief that separates us,” claimed Carthy, whose 1-3 against Mullinalagtha was vital. “When the game is in the melting pot, we actually believe we’re going to win the game.”
Carthy’s strong individual form is a big part of that overall belief.
“I definitely feel like an inter-county player now,” he said. “I’m just trying to get better with every game.”
The problem for Vincent’s is that Rhode have plenty of talent too. It’s getting up on a decade since Niall McNamee left scorch marks on Dublin defender Paul Griffin when Rhode lost narrowly to Kilmacud Crokes in the 2008 final, but he’s still delivering.
“What we did in Longford won’t be good enough,” said Carthy. “We have to up it again and make sure we’re taking our chances. Because if we don’t, they’ll put us away.”
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