By Daragh Ó Conchúir
St Vincent’s of Dublin will play Mayo kingpins Castlebar Mitchels in the AIB GAA All-Ireland club SFC final at Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day, after the two teams emerged from a pair of titanic and hugely entertaining tussles in today’s semi-finals.
Mossie Quinn gave an exhibition as St Vincent’s laid the foundation for their 2-14 to 1-13 success over Ballinderry in the opening period. The former inter-county star finished with 1-8 and had a hand in a number of other scores, including Ciaran Dorney’s goal.
The Shamrocks did get to within a point by half time, despite conceding two quick-fire goals, but it was the Leinster representatives that held the upper hand in the second half, despite having to do without Dublin ace, Ger Brennan.
Quinn opened the scoring from a 45 but Ballinderry responded with two quick points from Colin Devlin and Conleth Gilligan.
Then Quinn turned the tie in his side’s favour with a wonderful goal in the seventh minute, as he turned Kevin McGuckin and arrowed a shot inches inside the post.
Four minutes later, he threaded an eye-of-the-needle pass to goal machine Dorney, who slammed a powerful shot beyond the advancing Michael Conlon.
Ryan Bell, James Conway and Devlin all scored points to help the Ulster outfit settle. Devlin added a couple of more points, including one that came from a rocket of a shot off the top of the crossbar, and at the interval, St Vincent’s only led by 2-4 to 0-9.
Tommy Conroy managed to galvanise his charges during the break though and points from Gavin Burke, Quinn (free) and the hitherto anonymous Diarmuid Connolly stretched the margin to a goal once more.
When Connolly popped over his second and Quinn landed two frees, it was quickly a six-point game, entering the third quarter.
Daniel McKinless gave Ballinderry hope with a fantastic solo goal in the 48th minute but St Vincent’s were dominant and Dorney, Quinn and Connolly saw them home.
The loss of Colm Cooper through injury after just 20 minutes proved too much of a handicap for Dr Crokes to bear, as they lost at this stage of the competition for the third consecutive time at O’Moore Park this afternoon, on a 3-13 to 1-11 scoreline.
Cooper suffered an injury to his right knee when scoring his second point and while Alan O’Sullivan was outstanding for Dr Crokes in attack, with four points from play, the Kerrymen lacked the cutting edge needed to translate their greater share of the possession into a match-winning scoring tally.
Within seconds of Cooper hobbling from the fray, player of the match, Patrick Durcan was kicking the first of his two goals, converting at the second attempt after Donal Moloney had saved the rampaging wing-back’s initial attempt.
That pushed Castlebar into a 1-4 to 0-6 lead but to give Dr Crokes credit, they showed considerable mettle to respond immediately with a goal of their own.
It was a stunning score. Teenager Michael Burns, who replaced Cooper, fed Kieran O’Leary with a magnificent kick-pass and the corner-forward finished clinically on the turn.
Significantly though, the Mitchels kicked the next three points via Richie Feeney, Tom King and captain, Donie Newcombe.
King and Feeney had the margin to three soon after the resumption, but a brilliant point from Daithi Casey, and another score from O’Sullivan soon had it back to one.
A 42nd minute goal by King was vital but Crokes showed their determination again to peg it back to one.
They weren’t to score again however and the Mitchels produced their customary strong finish to claim the coveted All-Ireland final berth.
King, Ger McDonagh, Aidan Walsh and Neil Lydon all kicked points before Durcan provided the final flourish in injury time, taking a pass from Barry Moran to bag his second goal.