Vincent's make hard work of Mullinalaghta task
St Vincent's 2-12 Mullinalaghta 0-11
The scoreline in Pearse Park may have broadly reflected predictions, but it was deceptive.
The upshot was that St Vincent's reached their third Leinster final in four years, continuing their 2016 habit of chugging along, using just enough fuel to get to the finishing line ahead, but scarcely a drop more.
With five minutes to play against Mullinalaghta, Tommy Conroy's team led by just three points, with the Longford champions sniffing a goal with which to punish Vincent's poorly-calibrated shooting in a ragged second half.
That the prevailing feeling among the travelling Marino herd was one of relief told its own tale. "The lads, you'd like to think they might make it a bit easier on themselves," reflected Conroy, who has overseen each of the three Dublin SFC titles and now, three provincial final appearances since 2013.
"But I think we were a bit unlucky. We missed a few scores. And if we had got those scores, it might have been a bit different."
"We're an experienced group and that probably just helped them in dealing what Mullinalaghta were throwing at them, which was a tough, physical encounter."
Mullinalaghta won their first Longford title since 1950 last month. They were the sixth club from the county to play in the Leinster semi-final and by the time the lingering darkness made itself permanent yesterday, they were the sixth to fail.
In between, they proved themselves sticky opponents.
Situated in North East Longford, perched right on the Cavan border, the 'half parish' (Gowna, situated on the Breffni side of that border, are their other half), Mullinalaghta hassled Vincent's across the middle and possessed a couple of dangerous forwards.
The sprightly Rian Brady kicked a couple of gems in the first half, though their most creative player, James McGiveney, was the victim of a claustrophobic man-marking job by Ger Brennan.
Vincent's, though, have the look of a team who have seen everything. Their craft up front, particularly the interplay of Tomás Quinn, Diarmuid Connolly and Enda Varley, is commendable. More impressive again is their economy.
On a day when movement was essential for both the creation of space and simply keeping warm, the Vincent's attack didn't waste a step.
Their shooting wasn't clinical though, so comfort eluded them until the last couple of minutes, but the arrival Joe Feeney and Albert Martin from the bench gave their attack a new momentum.
"It just showed you on any given day you can be competitive for so long," reflected Mullinalaghta manager - and former Cavan player - Mickey Graham. "But the bigger teams will always come good in the end because they have the resources and they have the bench to empty, and if we had those sort of players to come on it would be a different story."
Shane Carthy, the game's best player, kicked 1-3 and it took until his 59th minute before Vincent's were able to relax.
"We're going to have to improve to live with Rhode," Conroy said, looking ahead to the provincial final on Sunday, December 11 when a win for his club would put them level with Portlaoise with seven titles.
"We're going to have to tighten up on certain as aspects of our play because it just won't be good enough the next day."
Scorers - St Vincent's: S Carthy 1-3, T Quinn (0-2f) 1-2, E Varley 0-2, Cormac Diamond, R Trainor, D Connolly, J Feeney, A Martin 0-1 each. Mullinalaghta: D McGivney 0-3 (3f), J Matthews (2f), R Brady, G Rogers 0-2 each, S Mulligan, J McGivney 0-1 each.
St Vincent's - M Savage; M Concarr, J Curley, C Wilson; B Egan, G Brennan, Cameron Diamond; D Connolly, D Murphy; G Burke, S Carthy, Cormac Diamond; R Trainor, E Varley, T Quinn. Subs: J Feeney for Murphy (41), A Martin for Burke (41), N Mullins for Cameron Diamond (49), K Golden for Cormac Diamond (49), M Loftus for Varley (60).
Mullinalaghta - P Rogers; P Fox, S Cadam, J Mooney; S Mulligan, D McElligott, C Brady; R McElligott, J Keegan; G Rogers, J McGivney, D McGivney; J Matthews, A McElligott, R Brady. Subs: M Cunningham for E McElligott (41), F Mulligan for C Brady (54).
Ref - D Moore (Laois)