It is a measure of the standards set by St Vincent’s that Tomas Quinn pronounced himself entirely ‘disappointed’ with their AIB Leinster club semi-final win.
Victory for the holders and All-Ireland champions secured a December 14 final clash with Rhode, as many people expected.
But the manner of the victory was far from routine and raised questions about their mental conditioning after going AWOL for a crucial, and almost costly, 20-minute period in the middle of the game.
Initially, all the ingredients were in place for a big Vins win. Tommy Conroy’s side enjoyed a great start, thanks to a third minute Quinn goal, and strode 10 clear with 25 minutes on the clock.
But the game would turn violently in Garrycastle’s favour soon after and 1-7 without reply from the Westmeath champions to level the game after 42 minutes was as shocking as it was unexpected. Former All Star Des Dolan was at the hub of the Garrycastle revival, scoring 1-3 of that 1-7 — he hit 1-5 overall — and dispatching a superb solo goal early in the second-half.
Ultimately, Garrycastle weren’t able to push on from there though, missing a goal chance from James Dolan that would prove crucial in the context of their revival.
And in the final 15 minutes, Vins outscored Dessie Dolan senior’s side by 1-3 to 0-1 to win with some to spare. Quinn’s second goal from a 56th minute penalty was much more important than his earlier strike if far less pleasing on the eye.
His side were leading by just two points at that late stage when he coolly converted and helped secured a final clash with Rhode. But he was far from happy.
“I think they hit 1-6 or 1-7 on us without reply which isn’t acceptable for us and Michael Savage producing a great save obviously kept it to that,” said Quinn. “So it could have been worse for us.
“We just need to be more consistent. The thing is that if we play for just 20 minutes again, that’s not going to be good enough. We’ve got to keep going for the whole game.
“It’s a strange feeling because we’ve won the Leinster semi-final by five points but we’re walking out of here quite disappointed. We know we have plenty of work to do. On one hand it’s positive, yeah, but a lot of work still to do.”
Even allowing for their difficulties, the bottom line is of course that Vincent’s delivered when they really had to.
Captain Ger Brennan was black-carded deep into injury-time but made his presence felt during the tie with two important points.
Diarmuid Connolly wasn’t as influential as normal but made some vital contributions and some clever passes aside from the two points he scored.
Former Westmeath star Dolan deserved to be part of the winning troupe. He dragged Garrycastle back into the game almost single handed and his goal was a peach, striking early from a considerable distance past Savage after sprinting clear of Brennan.
Manager Dessie Dolan senior was loath to heap too much praise on his son.
“Well, he has that ability,” said Dolan senior, who suggested the result may jolt Vincent’s ahead of the provincial final. “Maybe it will. Tommy Conroy and Ger Brennan certainly came into our dressing-room and said they were hugely relieved because they thought they were going out.”
Vins manager Conroy will argue there is a reason his side are All-Ireland champions though and it is because of their vast character.
After drawing level, Garrycastle only scored one more point, a converted Dolan free, and that was down to some great defending by Vins.
At the other end, the Marino side shot 1-3 late on, with 1-2 of that from Quinn, while Brennan shot his second point.
The penalty came after a challenge by Garrycastle goalkeeper Cathal Mullin on Ruairi Treanor which earned him a black card. Even more costly, it resulted in a penalty that Quinn slotted low and right to the net, moving Vins from two to five ahead and effectively into the decider.
Scorers for St Vincent’s: T Quinn (2-2, one free, one penalty), S Carthy (1-1), G Brennan, D Connolly (one free), G Burke (0-2 each).
Scorers for Garrycastle: D Dolan (1-5, three frees), J Dolan (0-2), J Barrett, M Guiheen and M Monaghan (0-1 each).
ST VINCENT’S: M Savage; H Gill, J Curley, K Bonnie; B Egan, G Brennan, M Concarr; E Fennell, D Murphy; G Burke, T Quinn, S Carthy; R Treanor, D Connolly, C Dorney.
Subs: Cameron Diamond for Dorney (37), Cormac Diamond for Murphy (37), T Diamond for Burke (56), M Loftus for Fennell (59), S Byrne for Brennan (64, black card).
Garrycastle: C Mullin; M McCallon, J Gaffey, A Fox; K Henson, J Donohoe, G McCallon; J Barrett, A Browne; D Rushe, D Dolan, M Guiheen; M Monaghan, G Dolan, J Dolan.
Subs: A Gardiner for Rushe (h/t), D O’Shaughnessy for Browne (47), J Duignan for Gardiner (47), S O’Connell for Mullin(55, black card), C Cosgrove for Monaghan (61).
Referee: J Hickey (Carlow).
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