28 February 2008 Edition
Sweet St Vincent’s
WHEN St Vincent’s won the all-Ireland club football final in 1976, Dublin won the All-Ireland. There was similar happy coincidence in 1995 when Kilmacud Crokes accomplished the same feat. No doubt the entire country will be hoping that the fates decree a similar outcome this year.
Hoping to ensure that the first does not take place are Nemo Rangers of Cork, the most successful club side with seven Andy Merrigan trophies to their name. Vincent’s beat Nemo in the semi-final in 1976 before easily overcoming Roscommon Gaels in the final.
Both sides were replete with county stars, many of whom had won All-Irelands. Billy Morgan had been the Cork goalkeeper and captain in ‘73 while Vinnie’s had no less than five of the players who had started in 1974 as well as several other panellists, including current Dublin selector Dave Billings. Current Vincent’s manager Mickey Whelan had also won an All-Ireland for Dublin in 1963 and was the veteran of the side at 39.
The team that had hoped to emulate Nemo in the Roll of Honour, Crossmaglen, met their Nemesis in Navan on Sunday. Few had given the Dublin champions much of a chance despite the ease of their passage through Leinster and the fact that they had hammered Portlaoise, who had beaten Cross’ in the 2005 semi-final.
Such portents, along with the fact that the Armagh men were certainly not as formidable as in previous years, might have made the 7/4 on offer about Vinnie’s more attractive. With the aid of a strongish breeze, Vincent’s began in a manner very similar to the way in which they had steamrollered Portlaoise before Christmas.
In that game Brian Moloney goaled after three minutes and Mossy Quinn had another five minutes later after Pat Gilroy, hero of 1995, won possession on the edge of the square and laid off the ball. Last Sunday, it was almost as though Vincent’s had deliberately set out to follow the same script, except that it took Moloney four minutes to find the net and a further ten before Gilroy and Quinn reprised the same move as in the Leinster final.
By that stage, Cross’ were reeling, and while a certain author may have been assuring those within earshot that the Dubs were certain to collapse and hand the game to them, not even a shrewd judge such as himself would surely have been tempted to wager large sums on that unlikely eventuality.
Vincent’s went in leading by ten at half-time and knowing that, while a storm was certain to come in the second half, barring the leaking of goals (something which they have been loathe to do over the year), they ought to hold out even against the stiffening gale.
A token of Cross’s desperation was the appearance after the break of the great Francie. He went in at full-back to mark Gilroy but neither saw much action in a half once again dominated by the team with the elements in their favour. Cross’ needed an early goal and it didn’t come. Instead, the Dublin side were able to contain them and were clever in the use of their own possession when, in contrast to the long direct ball of the first half, they found their men with short passes and had the physical strength to resist the increasingly frantic efforts of their opponents to break them down. Cross’ did outscore them over the 30 minutes but, in truth, never looked like building the kind of momentum that might have saved the day.
Afterwards, some spoke of the defeat as the end of an era but that has been said before. Cross’ have shown an ability to remain consistent over more than ten years with many changes of personnel. It would be a brave pundit who would predict that they will not do so again.
IN THE other football semi-final, Nemo easily overcame Ballina Stephenites, who mounted a pretty anaemic challenge to the Cork men. It sets up an enticing meeting on Patrick’s Day between the two old rivals and with the historic connection of one B Morgan in goal for Nemo and old Mickey standing on the sideline. Although not too close to Morgan Senior, I trust!
The hurling final will be contested between close neighbours and trans-Shannon rivals Birr and Portumna. Birr beat Dunloy of Antrim with a bit in hand and Portumna overcame the slightly more sustained challenge of Loughmore-Castleiney.
The two have never met in the club championship but really the rivalry between Galway and Offaly hurling is one of the great phenomena of the game. Having never met previously in the history of the championship, they contested five semi-finals and two finals between 1980 and 1994. The score stands at 4-3 in favour of the Leinster county and with Offaly having won both the 1981 and 1985 finals. So you can be certain that Portumna will have more than the usual support from other Galway clubs on the day.
An Phoblacht Magazine
AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:
- The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
- It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
- There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.