Monday 20 May 2019

The Diarmuid Connolly centre-back experiment backfires as St Vincent's attack stutters in surprise defeat

Castleknock 3-8 St Vincent's 0-14

Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincents in action during the Dublin Senior Football League Division 1 match between St. Vincents and St. Oliver Plunketts ER at St. Vincent's GAA Club in Clontarf, Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincents in action during the Dublin Senior Football League Division 1 match between St. Vincents and St. Oliver Plunketts ER at St. Vincent's GAA Club in Clontarf, Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

FOR all its accelerated tactical evolution, there are times when the old maxim about football being a simple game are undeniably true and last night, as the lightfaded in Broomfield, was such an occasion.

Castleknock and St Vincent’s, winners of their first matches in Group 4 of this year’s Dublin SFC, played out a pedestrian first half in the Off-Broadway venue of St Sylvester’s home ground in Malahide.

At one stage in the half, Castleknock stitched more than 40 passes together, prodding and probing but never penetrating and always – always – hell-bent on not turning over possession, an obsession that negated real ambition or invention.

These terms of engagement, it seemed, suited St Vincent’s more than they did Castleknock. The Marino club led by 0-7 to 0-4 at half-time, although they would be shooting into the goal that almost seemed haunted, such had been the inaccuracy of Castleknock in the previous half hour.

The expectation at that stage was that Castleknock would continue their cautious assault, but Vincent’s would find just enough possession to kill off the game, although a Shane Boland goal after a strong run by Daragh Warnock kept Castleknock in touch early in the second half. But, late on, Castleknock spun everything on its head by laying siege to Michael Savage’s goal.

They positioned Ciarán Kilkenny in a more advanced role, although his influence was less pronounced than it had been in the first. Yet two late bombs from deep led to the goals that won this game for Castleknock, who are now through to the knock-out stages before the competition’s five-month break, and left Vincent’s facing a summer of comparable uncertainty.

For the first, Ger McDermottroe rose to meet a dipping delivery and beat two others to the ball, fisting it off the underside of the crossbar. For the second, Savage mishandled a speculative delivery from the right wing and just as he re-gathered, substitute Kevin Stevenson patted the ball into the goal to put Castleknock into an unlikely four-point lead. That preceded an old-fashioned goalmouth scramble as darkness descended and Vincent’s tried to prize open one last flash of the goal, but their best chances had long since been squandered.

The result was harsh on St Vincent’s, even if it rewarded Castleknock’s forced ambition. With Diarmuid Connolly again marooned at centre-back, Vincent’s lacked his invention up front. The sum total of his creative output in the first half was two collected short kickouts, although he ambled forward with greater regularity in the second and kicked a delicate point off his left.

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If St Vincent’s – or, indeed, Dublin – are to extract the maximum from Connolly’s talent this year, it won’t be by playing him centre-back. His positioning there wasn’t the only slice of luck Castleknock had last night, but they devoured every single one.

SCORERS – CASTLEKNOCK: G McDermottroe, K Stevenson 1-1 each, S Boland 1-0, T McDaniels 0-3 (1f), K Kindlon, C Kilkenny, S O’Carroll 0-1 each.

ST VINCENT’S: T Quinn 0-5 (3f), S Carthy, L Smyth 0-2 each, M Concarr, J McCusker, D Connolly, Cameron Diamond, A Baxter 0-1each.

CASTLENOCK: M Connolly; T Corcoran, E O’Brien, R Shaw; C Murphy, T Quinn, G Hannigan; J Sherry, D Warnock; S Boland, S O’Carroll, B Galvin; G McDermottRoe, C Kilkenny, T McDaniel.

Subs: K Kindlon for Galvin (42), K Stevenson for McDaniels (50).

ST VINCENT’S: M Savage; M Concarr, J Curley, S Lambe; K McCusker, D Connolly, Cameron Diamond; A Martin, N Mullins; S Carthy, T Diamond, Cormac Diamond; S Lowry, L Smyth, T Quinn.

Subs: A Baxter for Cormac Diamond (h-t), S O’Meara for Smyth (35), B Egan for Carthy (41), L Galvin for Mullins (51), A Giblin for Concarr (61inj).

REF: D Harrington (StSylvester’s)

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