Irish Times: Diarmuid Connolly’s contribution crucial for St Vincent’s

Dublin Senior Football Championship Semi-Final, Parnell Park, Dublin 26/10/2016Ballymun Kickhams vs St. Vincent'sBallymun's Kevin Leahy and John Small tackle Diarmuid Connolly of St. VincentsMandatory Credit ©INPHO/James CrombieDublin Senior Football Championship Semi-Final, Parnell Park, Dublin 26/10/2016Ballymun Kickhams vs St. Vincent’sBallymun’s Kevin Leahy and John Small tackle Diarmuid Connolly of St. VincentsMandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

St Vincent’s 0-12 Ballymun Kickhams 0-11 St Vincent’s advanced to their fourth county final in succession when they overcame Ballymun Kickhams by the bare minimum in an enthralling semi-final at Parnell Park last night.

With extra-time seemingly inevitable, substitute Albert Martin kicked the decisive score to separate a contest with no discernible pattern, most notably after the first-half sending-off of Ballymun’s Jason Whelan.

James McCarthy’s return from injury was a welcome boost for Kickhams and his inclusion almost paid instant dividends but he shot narrowly wide from close range in the third minute after a trademark burst from deep.

The first score arrived two minutes later through a sublime point from Diarmuid Connolly with James Burke restoring parity almost immediately with another cracking score.

St Vincent’s looked vulnerable in central defence and Ballymun created another goal chance soon after with McCarthy releasing Alan Hubbard but Michael Savage was quickly off his line to smother his goal attempt.

Both sides missed chances as the half progressed with Dean Rock inching Ballymun ahead in the 10th minute, a lead that failed to reflect their dominance at that stage.

St Vincent’s Ruairí Trainor should have netted in the 12th minute when found by Tomás Quinn but his chipped attempt landed over Sean Currie’s crossbar.

Enda Varley regained the lead for St Vincent’s after a smart turn away from Eoin Dolan with Ballymun losing Davy Byrne to a black card in the 20th minute after a trip on Shane Carthy.

More misfortune was to befall the 2012 winners when Jason Whelan, already on a yellow card after an earlier altercation with Cameron Diamond, gave referee Barry Tiernan no option in the 23rd minute as his high challenge on Connolly resulted in Whelan’s inevitable dismissal.

St Vincent’s availed of their numerical advantage to push two points clear after successive frees by Quinn.

But last year’s beaten finalists finished the half poorly as Rock added a ‘45’ to an excellent point from play as the sides remained deadlocked at 0-5 apiece at the break.

Vital momentum

Those scores added vital momentum to the Ballymun challenge and they maintained the initiative in the early stages of the second-half as Ted Furman fired over in the 35th minute to reward some early pressure.

Varley levelled matters a minute later but Kickhams looked to have made a decisive move as Rock and Furman replied in quick succession to hand them a healthy buffer.

However, such is the quality inherent in the St Vincent’s forward line that any lead would prove vulnerable and Quinn and Connolly emphasised that with cracking points within 30 seconds of each other to keep the tie finely-balanced at 0-8 each after 41 minutes.

It was at this point that Connolly, a relatively peripheral figure initially, began to exert a profound influence on matters with two stylish points pushing his side narrowly ahead by the 49th minute.

The ebb and flow was maintained with both teams enjoying sporadic periods of control as Rock levelled matters once again with Ger Brennan joining the attack to telling effect in the 52nd minute to kick an inspirational point for the 2013 and 2014 winners.

When Rock added his eighth point of the night four minutes from time, coming on the back of Quinn’s dismissal in the 55th minute, it appeared Ballymun had done enough to force added time. But Martin’s fine score under pressure proved decisive in the end.

ST VINCENT’S: M Savage; C Wilson, J Curley, M Concarr; B Egan, G Brennan (0-1), Cameron Diamond; D Murphy, D Connolly (0-4); G Burke, S Carthy, Cormac Diamond; R Trainor (0-1), E Varley (0-2, one free), T Quinn (0-3, two frees). Subs: J Feeney for Burke (41), A Martin (0-1) for Murphy (48), A Baxter for Varley (55), K Golden for Cormac Diamond (60), J McCusker for Trainor (62). BALLY MUN KICKHAMS: S Currie; K Connolly, E Dolan, P McMahon; D Byrne, J Small, J Burke (0-1); A Elliot, J McCarthy; D Rock (0-8, six frees, one 45), J Whelan, K Leahy; P Small, T Furman (0-2), A Hubbard. Subs: L O’Donovan for Byrne (20, black card), D Keating for O’Donovan (50), E Reilly for Leahy (57), L Young for Connolly (61). Referee: Barry Tiernan (O’Dwyer’s)