AFL 1: Game of the week - Na Fianna v St. VincentsTHU, 29TH JUNE 2017




There was little to separate the sides throughout the contest, but with substitute Gavin Burke leading by example, St Vincent’s secured a narrow victory over near neighbours Na Fianna in an Adult Football League Division One encounter.

The second-half introduction of Burke – along with Ger Brennan, Daithi Murphy and Lorcan Smyth – helped Vincent’s to create daylight between themselves and the Glasnevin men in the closing moments. Na Fianna did narrow the gap with an injury-time goal from Gus Farrell, but the visitors ultimately held out for a hard-earned win.

Na Fianna secured an impressive triumph against Thomas Davis last Saturday week, and were able to welcome Dublin panellists Eoin Murchan and Conor McHugh back into their starting line-up for this game.

Fresh from his eye-catching cameo appearance in Croke Park on Sunday (when he kicked two points in Dublin’s Leinster SFC semi-final), Shane Carthy was also included by Vincent’s – who defeated Na Fianna in the second round of the county championship last month.

With just over two minutes gone on the clock, Tomas Quinn rattled the Na Fianna woodwork with a fierce drive from a right-hand angle. However, his rebound found its way to full-forward Albert Martin, and his volleyed effort was eventually deflected into the net.

This was an early set-back for the home team, and after getting on the end of a precise pass from the resulting attack, Quinn fired to the roof of the Na Fianna goal in clinical fashion. With four defeats from six heading into this tie, this was the kind of start that the hosts were hoping to avoid.

Yet, Vincent’s netminder Michael Savage was forced to tip over a powerful McHugh strike in the fourth-minute, and thanks to additional points by McHugh (free) and Glen O’Reilly, Na Fianna were beginning to settle into a more familiar stride.

Vincent’s ended this scoring sequence with a point from play by Cormac Diamond, but with the increasingly-prominent McHugh added a brace of frees, Na Fianna were well in contention heading into the second-quarter.

Vincent’s half-back Michael Concarr combined with Craig Wilson for a well-worked point, but by the 26th-minute of the opening period, Na Fianna had moved into the ascendancy for the very first time. O’Reilly (free) and Michael Deegan reduced the deficit to the bare minimum, and following excellent approach work from Odhran O Maoileidigh, McHugh raise a green flag for his team.

This was a blow for Vincent’s with the interval approaching, but unanswered scores by Quinn and Tiernan Diamond ensured that they were on level terms (2-4 to 1-7) at the midway stage. Another Deegan point edged Na Fianna back in front upon the resumption, and after Quinn converted a 35th-minute free, the former Dublin star was subsequently withdrawn through injury.

His place was taken by the aforementioned Burke (as part of a double substitution that saw Daithi Murphy entering the Vinnies midfield), who cancelled out an Odhran Maoileidigh point with his first touch of the day.

He once again swapped scores with the Na Fianna half-forward in a frantic third-quarter, before remarkably adding his third point in the space of five minutes. A magnificent score under pressure by Westmeath native Smyth edged Vincent’s into a two-point lead, before Na Fianna replied in a confident manner.

Na Fianna’s Aaron Byrne capitalised on a defensive error from the away side to claim a much-needed point, and he repeated the trick with a majestic score from a right-hand angle three minutes from the end of normal time.

Vincent’s discovered an extra gear during this juncture, though, and four points without replay courtesy of Cormac Diamond (two), Carthy and Burke seemed to place the outcome beyond doubt. A neat three-pointer by Farrell (four minutes into time added on) kept them on their toes, and a Ruairi Trainor contribution was needed before the Pairc Naomh Uinsionn could finally be assured of their victory.

Vincent’s will now aim to make it four wins on the bounce when they play host to St Brigid’s on Saturday, while Na Fianna will be looking for a positive response away to Skerries Harps on the same evening.

Scorers – St Vincent’s: Tomas Quinn 1-2 (0-2f), Gavin Burke 0-4, Albert Martin 1-0, Cormac Diamond 0-3, Michael Concarr, Shane Carthy, Tiernan Diamond, Ruairi Trainor, Lorcan Smyth 0-1 each. Na Fianna: Conor McHugh 1-4 (0-2f), Gus Farrell 1-0, Glen O’Reilly (1f), Odhran O Maoileidigh, Michael Deegan, Aaron Byrne 0-2 each.

ST VINCENT’S: Michael Savage; Craig Wilson, Jarlath Curley, William Lowry; Craig Brennan, Fiachra Breathnach, Michael Concarr; Nathan Mullins, Lorcan Garvin; Shane Carthy, Tiernan Diamond, Cormac Diamond; Ruairi Trainor, Albert Martin, Tomas Quinn. Subs: Cameron Diamond for Curley (18), Ger Brennan for Lowry (h-t), Daithi Murphy for Garvin, Gavin Burke for Quinn (both 39), Lorcan Smyth for T Diamond (45), Kevin Bonnie for C Brennan (57).

NA FIANNA: Eoin Butler; Niall Cooper, Niall McGovern, Senan Coughlan; Joey Boland, Eoin Murchan, Darragh Kennedy; Carl O’Connor, Gus Farrell; Odhran O Maoileidigh, Michael Deegan, Glen O’Reilly; Adam Caffrey, Conor McHugh, Tomas Brady. Subs: Jimmy Higgins for Kennedy (27), Killian Deeley for Boland (33), Aaron Byrne for Deegan (46), JJ Martin for O’Connor (53).

Referee: Willy O’Connor (Clontarf).

By Daire Walsh