Connolly sets the tone in Vin’s latest big win

by Gazette Reporter

ST VINCENT’S took home their third Leinster title in four years – and record-equalling seventh overall – last Sunday in Portlaoise, writes Paddy Hewson, but didn’t have things all their own way as rural Offaly side Rhode put up a huge fight.
With Dublin sides dominant in the Leinster club football championship in recent years, Vincent’s went in as heavy favourites, a tag that looked appropriate when a clever drilled finish from Diarmuid Connolly inside the first five minutes saw the blue and whites in early control.
For much for the first half, though, Rhode gave as good as they got, and while Vincent’s were never to lose their lead, the Offaly side regularly threatened the Marino men.
Mossy Quinn, Enda Varley and Connolly in particular were a constant thorn in Rhode’s side, with the men in green really struggling to contain the Vincent’s forward line, who took full advantage of the space they found plenty of space 25 yards from goal to demonstrate consistent accuracy in the early stages.
Four points down a minute before half time, Rhode were to have a chance to blow the second half wide open. A rustic challenge from Ger Brennan on Niall McNamee inside the box saw the Dublin man black carded, and the ball placed on the spot.
Rarely tested Vincent’s keeper Michael Savage took his chance to shine, though, diving to his left to hold Ruairi McNamee’s finish, making a tough save look easy.
To add insult to injury for the outsiders, Gavin Burke finished a fluid Vincent’s counter-attack to stretch the lead to five points from Savage’s quick thinking.
Rhode, who perhaps should have gone in just a point down, found themselves facing a sizeable margin at 1-8 to 0-6.
Rhode’s biggest problem, though, was the Vincent’s full backs were affording them very little space, with Niall McNamee frees to make up almost half of their final score tally.
The second half saw Vincent’s take control, doing so convincingly midway through the half, when Quinn, Ruairi Trainor and Joe Feeney scored four unanswered points to leave the Marino side very much in control.
With the game petering out, an edge of aggression snuck into the challenges, eventually seeing Conor McNamee also black carded, perhaps the victim of some persistent infringements from the desperate Offaly side.
Ultimately, though, with no fewer than eight members of the Vincent’s side on the scoresheet, a 1-16 to 0-12 win was roughly reflective of their dominance, with Rhode losing a provincial final for the fifth time. They’re yet to win one.
The win represents the second time Vincent’s have defeated Rhode in a provincial final in three years, and brings the Marino side alongside hosts Portlaoise as the most decorated club football side in Leinster. They progress to face Derry side Slaughtneil for a place in the All Ireland final in February

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