Hard lines for Skerries after difficult test
GAA Adult Football League: St Vincent's 2-15 Skerries Harps 0-14
A lack of markings on the pitch, combined with a couple of decisions that went against them, meant that Skerries Harps supporters left Marino on Sunday with one or two regrets to say the least.
When all is said and done, though, Vincents had that extra bit of quality and for the second year in a row they triumphed over Fingal opposition in their opening game.
Their 2018 opener at Broomfield saw them finish five-point winners over St Sylvester's and once again on Sunday it was the inside line of Enda Varley and Tomas Quinn that inflicted the damage.
There was, of course, the supporting act of one Diarmuid Connolly. Twelve months on, no one is still quite sure where he fits into Jim Gavin's plans, but four points from play from the enigmatic forward was a reminder of why Connolly's name will never be far from the spotlight.
Connolly was central to the action, particularly in the second half as the Division 1 champions laid down an early marker for 2019.
That said, Skerries Harps had managed to stay in touch for 40 minutes before a Quinn goal put paid to their hopes of taking something from this encounter.
Prior to that there was much to commend about Skerries Harps.
Mark Boylan, after a year out on the sidelines with injury, made a successful return to the side,while Donal McIlgorm provided them with a good target man at full forward.
Kevin Gilmore did some tireless running from wing forward, while Harry Dawson linked up play well for the seasiders.
The problem was that once they had gone behind to that Varley goal the dynamic of the game changed a bit. Vincents placed numbers en masse behind the ball and for all of Skerries' hard running, more often than not they encountered dead ends.
There was the issue of the endline, or the lack of one due to the absence of markings, and this became something of a frustration for the visitors as they attempted to negotiate their way past the Vincents full back line.
What they could have done with Connolly's expertise from the forty, though. He picked off some exquisite scores, which is what Skerries were in need of in the absence of goals that were always going to be hard to come by on the day.
It was a different story in the first half, though. They did concede an early goal to Enda Varley (Stephen Smith had converted an opening free shortly before that) as Vincents opened up Skerries off a counter-attack and Varley applied the finishing touches.
However, Skerries regrouped very quickly and by the 10th minute were 0-6 to 1-0 in front, with Dawson very much the key figure, while Boylan was in splendid form in midfield.
Killian McGinnis was another to feature well in Skerries' best period of the game, but Vincents would rediscover their form. While Skerries keeper Alun Cullinan would produce a close-in save to keep St Vincents at bay briefly, the home side would reel off a series of scores from Varley, Connolly and Adam Baxter to to draw level by the 18th minute.
Skerries refused to panic, though, with McIlgorm again showing good presence around the edge of the square to set up Smith for a point, before Boylan popped up with his second score of the half to double his side's advantage.
However, after Connolly had popped up with a score from the left, the five-time All-Ireland winner then tied the game in injury to leave it 1-6 to 0-9 at the break.
Harps would introduce former Dublin captain Bryan Cullen after the turnaround and the visitors would kick off precedings with another effort from Boylan.
However, things turned a bit pear-shaped after that as Vincents found their stride with back to back points from Varley and Quinn.
Skerries then had claims for a penalty turned down after Dawson seemed to be dragged down at the edge of the square.
And in the next passage of play Vincents then struck for their second goal of the game when Quinn drove a low shot past the keeper.
And while Vincents were to take off key midfielder Nathan Mullins (he had earlier picked up a yellow), the momentum remained with Vincents who very quickly had moved their lead out to six points entering the final quarter.
Skerries, having now introduced Tommy Ryan into the inside line, were offered hope with two points on the bounce from Robbie Clinton and Eoghan McGinley but would ultimately endure a frustrating end to the game as Vincents hung on for victory.
Skerries Harps: Alun Cullinan, Eoin Smith, Sean Rocks, Kevin D'Alton, Jack Smith, Donnachadh Reilly, Eoghan McGinley 0-1, Conan O Brien, Mark Boylan 0-3, Kevin Gilmore, Killian McGinnis 0-2(0-1f), Conan Doherty 0-1, Stephen Smith 0-3(2f), Donal McIlgorm 0-1, Harry Dawson 0-2. Subs: Bryan Cullen, Tommy Ryan, Robbie Clinton 0-1, Kevin Coyne.