Vincent's stroll past Palatine but 'marked man' Connolly sees black
St Vincent's were forced to play over two-thirds of their Leinster club opener without the black-carded Diarmuid Connolly - but found another attacking jewel in Cormac Diamond to take up the slack, as the Dublin kingpins cruised into the last four.
St Vincent's 0-16 Palatine 0-8
Connolly's fellow half-forward kicked five sumptuous points, all off his left foot, as the All-Ireland favourites began their provincial campaign with an ultimately emphatic double-scores victory over Palatine.
But it wasn't all plain sailing at Netwatch Cullen Park, especially during a first half which ended with Carlow's long-odds champions just two points adrift and with Connolly long since banished to the line.
Palatine's most incisive performer, Shane O'Neill, was central to the 19th minute off-the-ball flashpoint. He ended up on the turf and after referee Niall Ward had consulted one of his umpires, he booked O'Neill - then brandished a black card at Connolly.
Neither manager professed to seeing what had unfolded, but Palatine's joint-boss Mick Lillis declared: "I'm sorry actually that Connolly was sent off, because I think he's an easy target at times. The punters came here today, they wanted to see Connolly as well, and I just think he's a bit unfortunate," the former Laois manager said.
"He's a marvellous footballer, he really is. He's the best in the business, any team would love to have him - and I didn't jump for joy when he was sent off, to be honest with you."
His opposite number, Tommy Conroy, took a philosophical view on Connolly's early exit from the action.
"Well, I don't know if it's buttons being pushed - he's going to be marked very tightly because of who he is and the talented player that he is," said Conroy. "That's to be expected. I'm sure when the opposition sit down they're saying, 'how are we going to stop this guy?' That's part and parcel of the game and I think he understands it as well."
If nothing else, the incident enlivened a soporific first half that included 20 barren minutes without a single score.
The opening five minutes contained a flurry of scores sadly out of keeping with what followed: Vincent's had four on the board in as many minutes, two coming from Diamond, before O'Neill got Palatine up and running.
The hosts trailed by 0-5 to 0-3 at the break, and twice more trimmed the deficit to two points after half-time. But then, in the space of eight minutes, Vincent's moved through the gears and killed the tie.
A Tomás Quinn free kick-started a run of five unanswered points from the 41st minute for the fomer All-Ireland champions. The veteran marksman tallied all five of his points during a fine second half; he even popped up at corner-back to launch the 60th minute move that would culminate in Diamond's fifth, and most eye-catching, score.
Shane Carthy was also to the fore, landing three points from midfield, but Conroy will be hoping for greater consistency over the hour when his troops travel to Longford in two weeks' time for their semi-final date with Mullinalaghta St Columba's.
SCORERS - St Vincent's: C Diamond, M Quinn (3f) 0-5 each, S Carthy 0-3, E Varley, A Martin, R Trainor 0-1 each. Palatine: S O'Neill 0-3 (1f), J Kenny, J Kane, S Reilly, C Crowley, B Kelly (f) 0-1 each.
ST VINCENT'S: M Savage; C Wilson, J Curley, M Concarr; B Egan, G Brennan, C Diamond; D Murphy, S Carthy; G Burke, D Connolly, C Diamond; R Trainor, E Varley, T Quinn. Subs: J Feeney for Connolly (black card 20), A Martin for Murphy (34), A Baxter for Varley (41), K Golden for Burke (48), J McCusker for Trainor (55), F Breathnach for Brennan (57).
PALATINE: C Kearney; M Rennick, C Lawlor, C O'Doherty; J Brennan, C Crowley, S Reilly; N Reid, J Kane; S O'Neill, C Moran, D Reid; C Crowley, J Kenny, T Kenny. Subs: P Reid for J Kenny (40), J Reid for Reilly (54), B Kelly for O'Neill (59).
REF: N Ward (Westmeath).