Ted Furman’s point looked to have sealed back-to-back titles for Ballymun as the game approached injury- time in extra-time but Connolly calmly converted from 40m to provide a fittingly dramatic conclusion to a wonderful encounter, a fact acknowledged by St Vincent’s manager Tommy Conroy.
“It was a really great game. Both sides gave everything and we couldn’t have asked for more from our players and I’m sure Paul Curran feels exactly the same way about his Ballymun lads,” said Conroy.
For Curran, there was disappointment at seeing a late five-point lead whittled away but there were plenty of positives to derive ahead of the replay scheduled for next Wednesday evening.
“We were a little bit disappointed that we did not finish it out in normal time. But, we are still in it and our lads showed tremendous character to come back in extra-time when it looked to be slipping away from us.”
The holders impressed from the opening whistle and it took Dean Rock just 21 seconds to open their account with a composed point.
That bright start was maintained with Furman climbing highest to deflect a Rock free over the crossbar from close range and a sublime Elliott Reilly score soon after pushed Ballymun three points clear inside two minutes.
Gradually, Ger Brennan began to exert his influence as St Vincent’s enjoyed a period of possession with Tomás Quinn kicking successive scores to reflect his side’s newfound momentum.
Despite Andy O’Brien replying with a sumptuous score for Ballymun, last year’s champions lacked fluency as the contest developed with Mark Loftus and Dáithí Murphy controlling affairs at midfield for the Marino men.
Karl Connolly produced a despairing block on Quinn to deny St Vincent’s a goal after eight minutes but they had soon restored parity following a Ciarán Dorney point and Quinn’s second score of the afternoon.
The free-flowing nature continued with Gavin Burke pushing St Vincent’s a point ahead, with Quinn once again the provider as his former county colleague Philip McMahon struggled with the movement of the corner-forward.
With both sides enjoying brief periods of supremacy, the pendulum swung back in Ballymun’s favour and two Rock frees in quick succession handed the holders a narrow 0-6 to 0-5 lead after 20 minutes.
Both sides were guilty of spurning goal chances towards the end of the half, with Dorney firing wide at the Church End before O’Brien rattled a rising shot off the crossbar as the pace of the game rose a notch.
Critically, Ballymun finished the half in the ascendancy and an excellent point from wing-back Alan Hubbard in addition to another Rock free ensured Kickhams held a 0-8 to 0-5 interval advantage.
The second half resumed in similarly tight fashion with a sublime pass from Diarmuid Connolly allowing Burke to trim his side’s arrears within five minutes of the resumption.
The All-Ireland minor winner of 2012 repeated the trick two minutes later and Quinn brought the sides level on 40 minutes, converting a close-in free following Hubbard’s trip on Connolly.
Despite Burke registering another delightful point, Ballymun finally grew into the half and they turned the game on its head when landing five unanswered points through Conor Weir, Rock, James McCarthy, Derek Byrne and Kevin Leahy.
Even with 15 minutes remaining, it appeared that only a goal would save St Vincent’s with Sean Currie producing a full-length stop to deny Ruairi Trainor.
That stop had a galvanising effect on Kickhams who looked to have built an unassailable lead through late scores from Rock and Weir but Kevin Golden’s 59th-minute goal preceded further scores by Burke and Shane Carthy to ensure extra-time.
Connolly, Burke and Quinn handed St Vincent’s the initial advantage in extra-time but points from John Small, Rock and Furman appeared pivotal prior to Connolly’s calmconclusion to affairs.
Scorers for Ballymun Kickhams: D Rock (0-8, 6fs), K Leahy, C Weir, T Furman (0-2 each), A O’Brien, E Reilly, A Hubbard, J McCarthy, Derek Byrne, J Small (0-1 each).
Scorers for St Vincent’s: T Quinn (4f), G Burke (0-6 each), K Golden (1-0), D Connolly (0-2, 1f), C Dorney, R Trainor, S Carthy (0-1 each).
BALLYMUN KICKHAMS: S Currie; P McMahon, S George, Eoin Dolan; A Hubbard, K Connolly, J Burke; Dabey Byrne, J McCarthy; E Reilly, Derek Byrne, K Leahy; A O’Brien, D Rock, T Furman.
Subs: J Small for Reilly and C Weir for O’Brien (39), C Burke for J Burke and M Brady for Leahy (48), J Welby for Derek Byrne (57), Derek Byrne for Connolly (74), Reilly for Rock (80).
ST VINCENT’S: M Savage; H Gill, J Curley, M Concarr; C Diamond, G Brennan, B Egan; D Murphy, M Loftus; G Burke, D Connolly, S Carthy; R Trainor, C Dorney, T Quinn.
Subs: E Fennell for Dorney (37), K Golden for Loftus (45), N Mullins for Diamond (49), Loftus for Murphy (73), L Bree for Curley (74), Dorney for Trainor (80).
Referee: Gary Owen McMahon (O’Dwyer’s).