By Rónán Mac Lochlainn
Dublin SFC: St Vincent’s and St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh advanced to the Dublin SFC final following wins over Ballyboden St Enda’s and St Jude’s respectively in Parnell Park on Saturday.
The highlight of the double-header in Donnycarney was unquestionably the display of Diarmuid Connolly with his 1-6 from play instrumental as St Vincent’s finished strongly to hold off a brave Ballyboden challenge by 1-17 to 1-10.
It was a reasonably even opening, with the impressive Sam Molony handing St Enda’s the lead with a superb score prior to Tomás Quinn levelling matters six minutes later from a close-in free.
Connolly then began to exert his influence on proceedings as he struck a brace of sublime scores in quick concession and another Quinn free inched the All-Ireland holders to a two-point lead after 12 minutes.
However, with the remainder of the Vinnies attack failing to sparkle, Ballyboden, with Robbie McDaid inspirational in defence, managed to remain in contention .
Declan O’Mahony halved his side’s deficit from Molony’s pass at the end of the first quarter but at the opposite end Connolly was proving irresistible, kicking another brace of high-quality scores.
The game appeared to be slipping from Ballyboden’s grasp as Eamon Fennell added to Vinnies’ lead. But St Enda’s finished the half strongly as Molony and Conal Keaney shared three points to trim St Vincent’s lead to just 0-8 to 0-6 by the break.
The second half saw Connolly resume in a similar vein and when Shane Carthy released him down the middle after 35 minutes, the outcome was almost inevitable as Connolly powered a superb left-foot shot beyond Daire Walsh in the Ballyboden goal.
However, far from St Vincent’s building on this score, they allowed Ballyboden back into the game, with Andrew Kerin and substitute Daniel Davey sharing four points as their arrears were reduced to just two points by the end of the third quarter.
Quinn replied with the first score from play from a St Vincent’s forward, with the exception of Connolly, after 47 minutes and the pick of Connolly’s points arrived soon after as he dummied Darragh Nelson before splitting the posts with the outside of his boot from 40 metres.
The prospect of a grandstand finish was heightened as Keaney pounced on a Kerin knockdown to net after 52 minutes, but the influence from the St Vincent’s bench was illustrated in the closing stages as Cormac Diamond and Mark Loftus pointed to ease the holders home by seven points.
Earlier in the day, St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh proved too strong for St Jude’s, 1-11 to 0-4, in a disappointing last four clash.
With both sides committed to a defensive gameplan, scores and entertainment were at a premium in the first half, although Craig Dunleavy and Declan Donnelly exchanged early points before Gareth Smith inched Plunkett’s ahead after ten minutes.
St Jude’s replied through scores by Joey Donnelly and Rob Finnegan but Plunkett’s finished the half in the ascendancy with successive scores by James Brogan, Niall Walsh and a Bernard Brogan free.
That momentum was maintained upon the restart as Plunkett’s maintained their control through three unanswered points by Bernard Brogan, the impressive Craig Walsh and Smith, with Jude’s replying through their solitary score of the half by Ronan Joyce.
The contest meandered towards its inevitable conclusion as Niall Walsh and Smith increased their side’s lead before their final berth was confirmed on the hour as Alan Brogan released Bernard Brogan and, after slipping the challenge of Paul Cunningham, the latter slipped a fine finish beyond John Brian Carthy.
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