Na Fianna must be sick of the sight of St Vincent’s. The Marino club’s quest for a stunning four Dublin Senior Football Championship titles in a row is well under way already this year, after the men in blue and white added a tight 2-17 to 2-15 win against Na Fianna over the weekend to a demolition of Skerries Harps.
It’s the fourth year on the trot that the two old north Dublin powerhouses have faced off and the fourth time St Vincent’s have come out on top.
This time, the young Glasnevin side – imperious at minor and Under-21 level – ran the holders close. Diarmuid Connolly, of course, remains conspicuous by his absence.
The game started at an absolutely frantic pace at a glorious Parnell Park. With the scores already at 0-2 each, Conor McHugh made the first big breakthrough for Na Fianna on six minutes as he pounced on a lose ball across the box, spun, and slammed home soccer-style on the volley, beating Michael Savage at his far post.
Vincent’s were to hit back in a flash. First, Mossy Quinn found himself clean through on David O’Hanlon in the Na Fianna goal after eight minutes, and stroked calmly home.
Enda Varley followed suit only 60 seconds later, lashing high past O’Hanlon in a second unstoppable goal. Vincent’s were back to their best, leading 2-2 to 1-2 after an utterly frantic few minutes.
That pace was unsustainable but the points did keep flying over. Glenn O’Reilly was particularly potent from the heart of the pitch for Na Fianna, poaching points from distance as Vincent’s blocked his passing options. He helped briefly pull Na Fianna level before half time before the prolific Varley responded in kind.
McHugh for Na Fianna and Westmeath man Lorcan Smyth for Vincent’s were also doing plenty of damage, with both sides shining examples of attacking football in the sunshine.
While Vincent’s were generally maintaining their gap, they couldn’t quite shake their rivals, who went in just two points down at 2-8 to 1-9 in Vincent’s favour.
Vincent’s came out stronger in the second half, though they were briefly reined in by Sean Caffrey’s unusual looping goal for the men in yellow which brought the gap back to a single point.
The prolific shooting continued with Vincent’s generally holding the lead at about a goal as McHugh and Varley did much of the damage at opposing ends. McHugh had a second goal scoring opportunity as he went one-on-one with Savage, but chose to chip over from close in instead.
While Na Fianna were reduced to ten men in the dying minutes, they nevertheless kept at Vincent’s, and had narrowed the gap to a single point by the time Varley popped up again deep into stoppage time to finish off the contest at 2-17 to 2-15, a fiercely entertaining battle that could easily have gone the other way on another day.
The result ensures St Vincent’s go through from group 2 – almost certainly in first, too – and leaves Na Fianna needing a victory against Skerries next time out to ensure they join them.
For all the predictability of Vincent’s ultimately claiming the spoils, this was an early-season classic that shows they have challenges beyond the usual two or three.