ST BRIGID’S .....2-15; SUMMERHILL ...0-11
TACKLING another programme of highly attritional matches just a week after winning something of an epic Dublin title might prove to be a perilous pursuit, but St Brigid's passed their first provincial test with ease at Páirc Tailteann, Navan yesterday.
In doing so, they also sounded a warning to favourites, Portlaoise, that another serious pretender to the Leinster throne lurk on the same side of this competition's draw.
Brigid's application, attitude and execution in dispatching Meath champions Summerhill by 2-15 to 0-11 in Navan yesterday were near impeccable in their opening gambit into Leinster football and they now face Wexford champions Horsewood next week in Parnell Park for a spot in the semi-final and, most likely, Portlaoise.
Leinster has been a happy hunting ground for Dublin teams over the past few years and in the year when football in the capital is enjoying its finest moment, Brigid's – as champions – are expected to represent the county with substance and style.
Yet it was a handful of players who never made it onto Pat Gilroy's victorious panel who effectively controlled the game for the Blanchardstown outfit yesterday.
In particular, Paddy Andrews – dropped from the Dublin camp after their League final defeat – lorded it in Páirc Tailteann, kicked five points (four from play), set up a goal and two points and generally, demonstrated the sort of all-round class which once marked him as an underage footballer of exceptional potential.
His contributions – too numerous to fully document – were all positive and he won, distributed and struck the ball like a man brimming with senior football experience. Andrews threw defenders around like ragdolls and the attention he attracted and smart ball he gathered, also served to open up space for his corner-forward colleague, Dublin minor of last year and U21 this year, Philly Ryan, to bag an identical bounty.
“Paddy is a very talented footballer and we would love to see him get back on the Dublin panel,” praised St Brigid's joint-manager, Gerry McEntee afterwards.
Yet Brigid's are the classic modern day team. Hard-working, efficient, athletic and rounded. No stars. No fancy stuff. Just smooth, solid football and an unflinching desire to win the ball back when it goes missing.
Barry Cahill and John O'Loughlin – so influential in their Dublin success – dominated but tired in what was Brigid's sixth match in successive weeks.
And at the back, Seán Murray, Graham Norton and the peerless Shane Supple provided a calming influence all throughout.
Supple is another with pressing claims of a Dublin call-up and yesterday, he looked every inch an inter-county 'keeper. His positioning, reflexes and increasingly, distribution, have all the stamps of someone who kept nets professionally and, crucially, he fits snuggly into the solid template McEntee and Mark Byrne have built for this Brigid's team.
In many ways, yesterday's fixture was the ideal Leinster Championship toe-dipper for Brigid's.
In truth, Summerhill's annual ambition was probably sated by capturing a first Meath title in 25 years and the three weeks since they beat Dunshaughlin after a replay have featured more reflection and celebration than preparation for the impending visit of the Dublin champions.
They stayed with Brigid's early on but once Cahill fisted Andrews squared pass (which had more than a hint of square ball about it) in the 21st minute, less than five minutes after Ken Kilmurray's deflected shot claimed their first goal, the tie was effectively finished.
“I think the more major factor was that we had won something big after a long break,” admitted Summerhill manager Declan McCabe. “Those guys (Brigid's) have some momentum going from the last number of weeks and kept it going today.
“The players have to enjoy (their county title). I told them that. Their families have to enjoy it. They're a great credit to themselves. But at the end of the day, you're looking at it and we were totally second best throughout the field.”
They also lost their Man-Of-The-Match from the county final, Adrian Kenny, to an early leg injury and though he re-appeared in the 41st minute, most of the Brigid's damage had been done.
“It didn't help,” McCabe conceded. “But I credit the subs that came in there. They kept battling.”
Nine points (2-7 to 0-4) separated the sides at the break and though Summerhill mounted something of an early blitz in the second and claimed the first three points of the match, Andrews, Ryan, Cahill and O'Loughlin always appeared capable of opening up more gaps.
“I think the lads were tired a couple of times chasing,” noted McEntee. “Summerhill came through the middle and could have gotten a couple of goals and were unlucky not to get a couple of goals.”
Noting the quick succession of matches his team have now played and the inevitable collateral damage of celebrating a championship win, McEntee explained: “They had two great nights in the beginning.
“But in fairness to them on Monday evening they stopped at midnight and moved on.”
Clearly, their minds are fully focused on becoming the fourth Dublin champions to win Leinster in five years and even without Kevin Bonner and Declan Lally, they have an arsenal of which the likes of Summerhill can only dream.
“We are delighted,” concluded McEntee, who once lost a Meath final on the same ground with Summerhill.
“Tired … but delighted to be here. It is a long campaign and we are out again next Sunday.
“But if you said to us we were out of the championship and not experiencing all this, no one would swap what we have now.”
SCORERS: P Andrews (1f), P Ryan 0-5 each, K Kilmurray, B Cahill 1-0 each, Mark Cahill 0-2 (2f), A Daly, K Darcy, L McCarthy 0-1 each. STARTING 15: S Supple; S Murray, G Norton, C Freeman; A Daly, Martin Cahill, G Kane; B Cahill, J O'Loughlin; C Mullins, Mark Cahill, K Kilmurray; P Ryan, K Darcy, P Andrews. SUBS: L McCarthy for Kilmurray (41), O McCann for Mark Cahill (42), C Kilmurray for Darcy (57), D Plunkett for Daly (58), J Kelly for Norton (59). WIDES: 8 (3 + 5) BOOKED: Andrews (26)
SCORERS: B Ennis 0-4 (4f), S Dalton 0-2, M Byrne (f), C Gillespie, P Rispin, A Kenny, B Lyons 0-1 each .STARTING 15: T McDonnell; D Dalton, C Young, W Ryan; S Husband, R Hatton, M Gorman; M Byrne, B Ennis; D Larkin, C Gillespie, A Kenny; P Rispin, D Dalton, S Kennedy. SUBS: B Lyons for A Kenny (12, inj), Kenny for Rispin (41), G Rispin for Gorman (43), R Tallon for Husband (49), P Comey Kennedy (52). WIDES: 3 (2 + 1)
REF: F Kelly (Longford)
ATTENDANCE: 2,000 (Est.)