Heffo inspiration as battling Saints hit the summit
Vincent’s 3-12 Portlaoise 3-09
What began a sad year ended on a joyous note for St Vincent’s in Tullamore with a fifth Leinster SFC title won in impressive circumstances.
By John Fogarty
After saying goodbye to their most famous son Kevin Heffernan in January, they last night welcomed home to Marino another familiar face in the form of the McCabe Cup after outlasting Portlaoise in a thrilling final.
For Ger Brennan and Diarmuid Connolly, yesterday completed the full set of major club and county titles this year, having already landed the county title and then league, provincial and All-Ireland honours with Dublin.
But this wasn’t a victory they carved out. With four minutes to go, Brennan may have burst forward with purpose to set up Tomás Quinn to put Vincent’s ahead for the first time since the 29th minute.
Connolly may have extended their lead to two a minute later but both he and Brennan were largely anonymous compared to Quinn — who kicked over eight points — and goalscorers Ruairi Trainor, Ciarán Dorney and Shane Carthy.
Much of that had to do with just how effective Portlaoise were in strangling Connolly of possession throughout. He kicked three wides but was largely under pressure when doing so. He did, however, have a part to play in Vincent’s opening goal in the 20th minute when he started the move that led to Dorney finding the net.
Portlaoise had funnelled players back but Connolly changed the point of attack to find Carthy and he treaded the ball into Dorney’s path.
Up until that stage, the Dublin champions, keen to keep ball in hand, were finding themselves running into culs de sac. But Dorney’s goal put them ahead 1-2 to 0-4 and they tagged on another three scores, a Trainor goal coming either side of Quinn and Gavin Burke points.
Trainor finished off the move with a dazzling turn of pace and clinical finish to end a move involving Burke and Eamon Fennell.
Five minutes of normal time were remaining in the first half and, despite playing the more enterprising football, Portlaoise found themselves six points in arrears. In the space of two minutes, they were back on level terms, all thanks to Craig Rogers’ right foot. His first goal came from sheer dogged determination after the impetus in an attack looked gone when he failed to negotiate a breaking ball behind the full-back line. With seemingly nothing on, he shot from a tight angle and it was deflected over the line.
Rodgers was again the protagonist in the 27th minute when he was abruptly taken down by Jarath Curley in the parallelogram leaving referee Fergal Kelly no option but to point to the spot. After dusting himself off, Rodgers stepped up and expertly finished to the top right corner.
Rogers, having played as a sweeper and extra defender in previous times, was clearly thriving having been restored to the forward line.
Trainor responded with a Vincent’s score to stop the rot but a Paul Cahillane point levelled proceedings just before the break, 2-5 apiece.
Portlaoise, facing the wind, started the second half in good fettle when a beautiful Conor Boyle pass created the platform for a Brian Smith point. Quinn squared the game with a free shortly after but then Brian Glynn stormed through to fire in Portlaoise’s third goal.
A Rogers free after an over-carrying offence put Portlaoise four ahead only for Carthy to keep his composure after being sent through and score the sixth goal of the game.
Downey followed that up with a point and the sides were level for a fifth time before Brian McCormack sent over a majestic looping left-footed shot from the left side. Quinn hit back for Vincent’s when his effort was deflected over the bar although Rogers was on the scoresheet again in the 48th minute when he punished a foul by Curley.
That turned out to be Portlaoise’s last score of the game as the last 10 minutes of the game belonged to Vincent’s, with Quinn showing the way. He won and converted a free for a 51st minute equaliser and then took receipt of Brennan’s pass to put his side one point up.
As Portlaoise showed signs of fatigue, Connolly finally shrugged himself free of their rearguard’s attention to put Vincent’s two up. But it was fitting that Quinn rounded off the scoring three minutes into injury time to confirm the win. In celebrating, he allowed himself a fist-pump. After guiding Vincent’s to the Leinster summit, it was the least he deserved.
Scorers for St Vincent’s: T Quinn (0-8, 4fs), R Trainor, C Dorney (1-1 each), S Carthy (1-0), G Burke, D Connolly (0-1 each).
Scorers for Portlaoise: C Rogers (2-3, 1-0 pen, 0-3fs), P Cahillane (0-3, 1f), B Glynn (1-1), B Smith, B McCormack (0-1 each).
ST VINCENT’S: M Savage; M Concarr, J Curley, H Gill; C Diamond, G Brennan, B Egan; E Fennell, D Murphy; G Burke, D Connolly, S Carthy; R Trainor, C Dorney, T Quinn. Subs for St Vincent’s: T Diamond for R Trainor (41 inj), K Bonnie for C Diamond (45), K Golden for C Dorney (57), N Mullins for G Burke (60).
PORTLAOISE: M Nolan; D Seale, C Healy, T Fitzgerald; K Lillis, P Cotter, B Mulligan; C Boyle, S Nerney; B Smith, P Cahillane, B Glynn; C Rogers, B McCormack, B Fitzgerald. Subs for Portlaoise: E Whelan for B Mulligan (42), A Kelly for B Glynn (56), K Fitzpatrick for P Cahillane (59).
Referee: F Kelly (Longford).
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