Graham puts Syls back on right track
GAA, Adult Hurling League: St Sylvester's 3-11 Nh Fionnbarra 1-15
As wins come, this might be a very important one. After suffering two narrow defeats on the trot, Declan McGrath's St Sylvester's got back on track with this two-point victory over the Cabra outfit at Broomfield to move away from the relegation zone.
It was a tale of two halves - or rather two plans as Finbarrs had dramatically altered theirs by the second half.
Hit for three goals as the home side ambushed them in no uncertain terms with some terrific finishing, Finbarrs would frustrate their opponents after the break when packing their defence.
Against the wind, Sylvester's were not as effective and at times struggled, with their decision-making as Finbarrs slowly ate away at their lead.
But the home side showed tremendous graft, with former Fingal captain Kevin O'Flynn showing his battling qualities at centre forward and Diarmuid McCarthy a crucial cog in their midfield.
Their match-winner, though, was Sean Graham. The Skerries native, having come through the Sylvester's minor ranks, converted two crucial frees as the Malahide men edged home in the closing stages after the FInbarrs had threatened to steal victory away from them.
The result might have been a different one had Glen Dodril put away his one-on-one with Syls keeper Dave Kennedy with five minutes to go.
It would have put the visitors three points up, but his nerves got the better of him as he kicked his effort wide, having got goal-side of his marker.
It was a fortunate escape for Sylvester's, but they took full advantage and Graham showed nerves of steel to convert two late chances.
The game was very much dictated by the strong breeze and certainly Sylvester's struggled with their passing game without the benefit of the wind at their backs.
It also left them susceptible to a number of long-range points after the break as Finbarrs came into their element. As mentioned, their full back line had been torn apart in the first half by Sylvester's incisive attack where Alan Kenny, having been restored to full forward, had a very productive opening first quarter.
He would fire the home side into an early 4-1 lead. but aided by some strong running down the middle by Ger Dodril, Finbarrs had levelled the scoring at four points each before Liam Foley drilled the ball into the roof of the net for Syls.
The two sides would add a point at each end before Sylvester's would land two cracking goals from Graham and 2016 Nicky Rackard All Star Killian O'Flynn.
At the other end Kennedy then pulled off the first of a number of important saves to deny Chris O'Brien just before the break.
Leading 3-6 to 0-8 at the change of ends, Sylvester's would add an early point through Foley after the resumption but then came under severe pressure from the Finbarrs.
And while Kennedy would produce a full-length save to deny Anthony Costello mid-way through the half, Finbarrs would eventually take the lead with six minutes to go.
It came off a disputed penalty as Sylvester's attempted to deal with a high ball into the square. In any case, O'Brien drilled the subsequent placed ball past the keeper.
And it might have been worse for Sylvester's had it not been for Dodril's open-goal miss shortly in what would prove Finbarrs' last hurrah of the game.
St Sylvesters: Dave Kennedy, Barry Crouse, Graham Norris, Kieran Falvey, Kevin Clarke, Alan Morris, Dan Deneher, Diarmuid McCarthy 0-1, Gareth McGrath, Liam Foley 1-1, Kevin O'Flynn 0-1, Luke Hughes, Sean Graham 1-3(0-1f), Alan Kenny 0-5(0-1f), Killian O Flynn 1-0. Subs: Dan Harvey, Collie Byrne, Kevin McLoughney, Conor Hoyne.