Mossie Quinn pulls strings as Vincent's surge to Leinster glory
Another trophy heads to the capital after battling Portlaoise performance falls victim to Dublin champions' final flourish St Vincent's 3-12 Portlaoise 3-9
An 18-point total would have won all the previous Leinster club finals in the 43-year history of the competition, but it wasn't enough this time as Portlaoise discovered to frustrating effect in Tullamore.
For while they banked enough to win most games, they were hit for even larger withdrawals as St Vincent's completed a remarkable year for Dublin by winning the Leinster title for the fifth time.
The six-goal shootout made for a most enjoyable experience for the crowd on a mild, cloudy afternoon but having contributed to a memorable occasion brought no solace to Portlaoise as they lost the Leinster final for a second successive year.
"It's no consolation whatsoever. This is all about winning – nothing else matters a damn," said joint-manager Mick Lillis.
His frustration was understandable as Portlaoise, who were backed by the wind in the first half, did so much right after finding themselves trailing by six points (2-4 to 0-4) in the 25th minute. St Vincent's had hit them for 2-2 in five minutes, the goals coming from Ciaran Dorney and Ruairi Trainor in the 20th and 23rd minutes respectively.
It was character-testing time for Portlaoise and their response was typical of a club that leads the Leinster roll of honour with seven titles.
Two goals in two minutes – both scored by the irrepressible Craig Rogers – re-energised the Laois champions and set the scene for a high-velocity second half. Rogers squeezed in the first goal from a narrow angle before booming a penalty to the net after he was floored in the square.
It was level at half-time (2-5 each) before Portlaoise made a great start to the second half, stretching into a four-point lead in the 38th minute. Their third goal came from Brian Glynn in the 36th minute after a slick, incisive move.
Having outscored St Vincent's by 3-3 to 0-2 between the 25th and 38th minutes, Portlaoise looked set to power on to glory, but it wasn't to be. Shane Carthy slipped in to score St Vincent's third goal in the 40th minute before Dorney brought the sides level.
Portlaoise twice led over the next eight minutes, but were pegged back to equality each time, leaving the sides deadlocked on 3-9 each with 10 minutes remaining.
It was still level after 55 minutes before Dublin stars – past and present – imposed their presence in a match-winning sequence of events. Ger Brennan placed Tomas Quinn for the lead point before Diarmuid Connolly, who had found it very difficult to make an impression on Cahir Healy, hoisted his only score.
And, in the final minute, Quinn took his haul to 0-8 after being given the freedom of the left wing after Portlaoise poured forward in numbers as they battled to rescue the situation.
Portlaoise failed to score in the final 12 minutes as St Vincent's tightened their security arrangements. Crucially, the Dubs also succeeded in creating – and taking – the precious points which restored them to Leinster's summit for the first time since 2007.
"That's the way we've played all year. We've let teams back into it and we've given them head starts. It was a bit sloppy (to concede two goals so quickly in the first half), but maybe we switched off mentally after getting our two goals," said Quinn.
"We knew then that it was likely to all come down to how we played in the final 10 minutes. We trusted ourselves all year to make the big plays in the last 10 minutes. It was a matter of guys doing the right thing with the ball – we did that in the end and that was probably the difference."
He was very much at the centre of St Vincent's carefully charted trek, using his vast experience to play himself into the most productive channels and finishing accurately from open play and frees.
Eamon Fennell and Daithi Murphy had some good moments at midfield and while St Vincent's struggled defensively before and after half-time, they stabilised on the home run.
It was special occasion for Fennell, whose long struggle to join St Vincent's wasn't without its controversies.
"This is one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Vincent's. I want to look back on my career and say I've played in these big games and I have these medals. Vincent's have given me the opportunity – that's all I ever wanted," he said.
Quinn reckons that a crucial ingredient in St Vincent's successes this year was their ability to reach a high level without Brennan and Connolly when they were on county duty.
"The big challenge for us was getting up to a standard where the lads only have to come in to make us a bit better – we're not relying on them. 'Dermo' and Ger played their part – but so did everyone else.
"We're not looking at them every few minutes saying: 'Come on, do something for us'. Everyone stepped up when they had to," said Quinn.
That was certainly the case when Portlaoise opened up a four-point lead early in the second half. It set St Vincent's a real test and they delivered in style, winning the final 22 minutes by 1-6 to 0-2.
Their win further added to the Dublin empire at the end of year when the All-Ireland, Leinster (senior football and hurling) and NFL titles also settled on Liffeyside.
It was also a historic occasion for Brennan and Connolly who became the first Dublin players to win All-Ireland, Leinster (club and county) and NFL titles in the same year.
As for Portlaoise, they could have no excuses. Nor did they offer any.
"We're devastated – it's as simple as that," said Lillis.
Scorers – St Vincent's: T Quinn 0-8 (4fs), C Dorney, R Trainor 1-1 each, S Carthy 1-0, G Burke, D Connolly 0-1 each. Portlaoise: C Rogers 2-3 (1-0 pen, 3fs), B Glynn 1-1, P Cahillane 0-3 (1f), B Smith, B McCormack 0-1 each.
St Vincent's – M Savage; M Concarr, J Curley, H Gill; C Diamond, G Brennan, B Egan; E Fennell, D Murphy; G Burke, D Connolly, S Carthy; R Trainor, C Dorney, T Quinn. Subs: T Diamond or Trainor (41), K Bonnie for C Diamond (50), K Golden for Dorney (57), N Mullins for Glynn (60).
Portlaoise – M Nolan; D Seale, C Healy, T Fitzgerald; K Lillis, P Cotter, B Mulligan; C Boyle, S Nerney; B Smith, P Cahillane, B Glynn; C Rogers, B McCormack, B Fitzgerald. Subs: E Whelan for Mulligan (42), A Kelly for Glynn (57). K Fitzpatrick for Cahillane (59).
Ref – F Kelly (Longford)