St Vincent’s stage fightback for victory over Ballymun Kickhams in Dublin SFC Replay
ON A night of high drama and late controversy at Parnell Park, St Vincent's staged a stirring second-half fightback to land a record 25th Dublin SFC title, leaving the holders from Ballymun utterly vanquished.
Soon after the final whistle, victorious skipper Ger Brennan paid special tribute to the late Kevin Heffernan – the club's most celebrated member – who passed away earlier this year.
How the late, great 'Heffo' would have relished this rollicking replay. The Marino men never led until the 57th minute, when substitute Kevin Golden nailed a testing left-footed free from the right wing.
Then, in the 59th minute, wing-back Cameron Diamond popped up in space to land the winner. They had trailed by three points at the break, and four points soon after, but as the second half progressed St Vincent's grew ever stronger and had nearly all the momentum in that pulsating finale.
By then, both sides had been reduced to 14 men after a 53rd minute flashpoint that saw Diarmuid Connolly receive a straight red card and his Dublin colleague, Philly McMahon, a second yellow.
McMahon, who had ended up prostrate after the incident, was incandescent when referee Darragh Sheppard ordered him off. His mood can hardly have lifted in the ensuing minutes as the Vinnie's, inspired by the evergreen Tomas Quinn, stormed from behind to claim the spoils.
The holders, under the shrewd command of Paul Curran, had been seeking their own special place in the Ballymun history books: their first ever two-in-a-row.
St Vincent's may be the traditional superpowers of Dublin club football, with 24 senior crowns before last night's replay, but they have been surviving off meagre rations over the past three decades. Since 1984 they had amassed the princely sum of one county title - six years ago.
That breakthrough 2007 triumph proved the springboard for a glorious assault on Leinster and ultimately the All-Ireland summit.
After this latest victory, what odds a repeat? The task looks arduous - three games in a week, and they have just three more days to shake off last night's exertions before facing into Sunday's Leinster club road trip to Mullingar, where Westmeath champions St Loman's will play host. They must also do battle without
Connolly, who faces suspension.
Not that his absence will dampen last night's party at Naomh Uinsionn.
After Sunday's riotous rollercoaster of a draw came the eagerly awaited sequel. Underfoot conditions were good-to-soft; thankfully the rain had subsided before an expectant crowd estimated at 6,000 settled in for the 7.45 throw-in.
Pre-match bulletins from the Kickhams casualty department were mixed: their long-domiciled Mayo wing-back, James Burke, was hamstrung and unable to start, whereas forward talisman Dean Rock shook off a knee injury suffered last Sunday to start at full-forward.
And within minutes, Rock had established himself as the dominant personality of a first half that oscillated emphatically in favour of Ballymun at the start, then back in favour of Vincent's, before the holders reasserted themselves to lead by 1-5 to 1-2 when the protagonists retired for tea.
By the midpoint, Rock already had 1-4 to his name. In truth, it could have been more. Dublin's impact sub par excellence converted an early free, then fisted a presentable goal chance wide, before Ted Furman (in the act of shooting on goal) was adjudged to have been fouled by advancing 'keeper Michael Savage.
Rock, with a confident flourish of his right boot, sent the resultant penalty handsomely to the top left corner. Soon after, Furman forced a turnover and duly popped the point. Four minutes in, and 'Mun already led by five points (1-2 to 0-0).
But Vincent's, initially shellshocked, steadied themselves once Connolly ghosted effortlessly up the right flank to curl over an exquisite fifth minute point.
Now it was the turn of Quinn to turn the screw. After 11 minutes he induced his shadow, McMahon, into a blatant foul resulting in yellow. Five minutes later, Quinn shrugged off the attentions of McMahon to drill an inviting cross straight to the unmarked Ciaran Dorney in front of goal. He couldn't miss; he didn't.
When Ballymun 'keeper Sean Currie advanced from his line to claim the ball ahead of Quinn, he was censured for following through with his leg. Yellow for Currie - and a tap-over gift for 'Mossy' to tie the contest.
But Ballymun regrouped to land the last three points of the half, all from Rock - the first a superb effort from the left wing, followed by a brace of frees from opposite wings.
When substitute Derek Byrne pointed within 25 seconds of the restart, the portents looked positive for the holders. Yet the opposition refused to die and kept snapping at their heels throughout a nip-and-tuck second half.
Aided by glorious points from the right wing by Connolly and Quinn, the challengers edged ever closer before a 50th minute Quinn free cut the margin to a single point - 1-8 to 1-7.
Even that free had been shrouded in controversy: McMahon was penalised for a late, high foul on Quinn that probably merited a second yellow. The Dublin defender stayed on - not for long.
Soon after came that off-the-ball flashpoint, reducing both sides to 14 men. But the gung-ho challengers scented blood and, through Golden's free and that priceless gem of a winner from Diamond, claimed the ultimate prize.