Donie shines as Clann end Brigid's reign of dominance convincingly
Clann Na Ngael 4-15 St Brigid's 1-12
Romantic football is not dead and gone if the action at Dr Hyde Park yesterday is anything to go by, as an inspired Clann na nGael display sent the three-in-a-row dreams of St Brigid's up in smoke.
The Rossies are still without a senior football manager following Kevin McStay's resignation but any potential candidates would have been enthused by what they saw in a refreshingly expansive duel.
The immaculate place kicking of Donie Shine - who finished with a haul of 1-7, with points from a wide variety of distances and angles - and Ciarán Lennon's expert eye for goal left them two points up at the break, 1-9 to 1-7.
Senan Kilbride was causing all sorts or problems at the other end, with the Roscommon star putting on a tour de force at full-forward to keep St Brigid's in an absorbing contest, but the game would quickly go away from Frankie Dolan's side.
Gearóid Cunniffe was dismissed in the 41st minute for a reckless challenge on the excellent Jack Connaughton before Clann na nGael struck for goal twice within 30 seconds and coasted home with Shine adding an injury-time penalty.
It was a sweet success for the Johnstown club as they claimed the Fahey Cup for the 21st time and few enjoyed the victory more than veteran attacker Johnny Dunning, who came off the bench to score their second goal and provide a calming influence.
In his 19th season with Clann, Dunning basked in the victory with his young boys, Alex and Ryan, in his arms and was "ecstatic" to add to their 2015 success in just the second club final appearance of his career.
"I was togging with lads today that weren't even born when I started out. Finals don't come too often and we're delighted to make our mark. It was touch and go there for a long time," the 36-year-old said.
"It was like two boxers feeling each other out. For a national statement of club football, it was an exhibition of shooting, good marking and playing football, no sweepers, none of that."
St Brigid's - All-Ireland club champions in 2013 - fought valiantly but couldn't rebound from five minutes of second-half madness which saw them fall six behind, with Dolan critical of match referee Paddy Neilan after Garvan Dolan's late red card saw them finish with 13 players.
"The sending off at the start of the second half probably caught up with us. It was one of those days where everything clicked for them and I thought a lot of decisions went against us," Dolan said.
"I would question the officiating, which was poor at times. They got a lot of soft frees in my opinion, in the first half particularly, and I thought they should have had two red cards as well for stuff that went on off the ball, but we got the two red cards."
The opening 30 minutes was a brilliant spectacle played in autumn sunshine with the neighbouring clubs going at it hammer and tongs and Clann na nGael set the tone as Lennon fired to the net inside two minutes when set up by Emmet Kenny.
It was a dream start for Fergal Shine's side but St Brigid's responded in devastating fashion as Brian Stack pointed before Kilbride caught a long Niall McInerney delivery and fired to the net. Ultan Harney and the inspirational Cathal Shine responded with points for Clann before Kilbride fired over a brace. It was nip and tuck thereafter with the sides level seven times in the first half as Shine and Kilbride swapped scores. Both sides looked like they could be split open easily and Kilbride was threatening to run riot.
Clann took action by dropping back some cover to aid full-back Stephen Flynn, which surprisingly saw Kilbride drift out the pitch, minimising his impact as Lennon produced a few moments of magic at the other end with some exquisite points.
That couldn't prevent St Brigid's edging ahead before half-time, however, but the final three points of the half, including two placed balls from Shine and a fine effort from busy substitute Cathal Callinan, signalled what was to come from Clann as they went in two up.
Dolan's side were back level by the 40th minute but things quickly turned sour for the Kiltoom side. Cunniffe was given his marching orders before Gunning palmed to the net after great work from Jamie Fahy.
Further disaster struck when Shane Mannion's resultant kickout landed in Callinan's hands. He had a lot to do from 40 yards out but much like Kerry legend Mikey Sheehy did to Paddy Cullen in the 1978 All-Ireland SFC final, Callinan coolly lobbed the keeper with the game's defining moment, 3-10 to 1-10.
Clann couldn't be caught after that and fittingly, Shine put the gloss on a clinical performance by slotting home a late penalty before collecting the spoils amid jubilant scenes.
SCORERS - Clann na nGael: D Shine 1-7 (0-4f, 0-2 '45), C Lennon 1-3, C Callinan 1-1, J Dunning 1-0, J Fahy 0-2, U Harney and C Shine 0-1 each. St Brigid's: S Kilbride 1-6 (0-4f), M Daly and G Dolan (2f) 0-2 each, B Stack and P Kelly 0-1 each.
CLANN NA NGAEL - R O'Reilly; D Pettit, S Flynn, R Gavin; J Connaughton, S Pettit, G Pettit; U Harney, C Shine; D Connaughton, D Shine, E Kenny; D McManus, C Lennon, J Fahy. Subs: F Lennon for D Pettit (BC 6), C Callinan for D Connaughton (28), J Dunning for McManus (38), C McManus for E Kenny (48), S Henry for S Flynn (57), R Naughton for Fahy (58)
ST BRIGID'S - S Mannion; R Stack, P Dormican, D Sheehy; E Sheehy, N McInerney, I Kilbride; G Dolan, C Murray; E Cunnane, B Stack, M Daly; P Kelly, S Kilbride, G Cunniffe. Subs: E Nolan for Murray (half-time), D Cunniff for Cunnane (48), B Derwin for Sheehy (55).
REF - P Neilan (St Faithleach's)