A BREATHTAKING 2-5 from Diarmuid Connolly helped inspire St Vincent’s to their fourth senior football AIB All-Ireland Club Championship title in Croke Park on St Patrick’s Day.
They ran out 4-12 to 2-11 winners over Castlebar Mitchel’s with Connolly’s star turn in the second half tormenting the Mayo side, netting twice in a virtuoso display.
Speaking afterwards, manager Tommy Conroy could not speak highly enough of Connolly’s contribution, saying: “He’s an exceptional talent and is capable of doing anything on the pitch. Again, when we really needed him, by God, he was there with a couple of other guys.
“I thought Ger Brennan was great at centre back and overall there were some great individual performances. We never panicked even when Castlebar came back and I just thought we were very resolute in what we were doing.”
Connolly now has two All-Ireland club titles to go with two county championships with Dublin, a similar tally to Brennan.
While the St Vincent’s captain said that juggling so many commitments can be difficult, he said afterwards that the depth of the squad in Marino has played a key role in achieving this success.
“Playing with so many great guys, there’s been times during the year when my own commitment and motivation drifted from time to time but the lads who weren’t playing county kept things going throughout the whole season. To captain such a committed and courageous bunch like that is really a great honour.”
In the final, Vincent’s had started well with Michael Concarr’s ninth minute goal giving them a great start but Castlebar bounced back with six successive points to swap the three-point lead around.
Ciaran Dorney grabbed the Dubliners’ second goal to tie things up at 2-2 to 0-8.
And the game continued to ebb and flow into the second half. Castlebar led 1-11 to 2-7 when Danny Kirby profited from a fortuitous bounce off the upright.
But the closing stages belonged to St Vincent’s as Connolly took his chance to shine beautifully. He applied a deft fist to get a key touch to Tiernan Diamond’s ball in from the left, rising highest to a bouncing ball.
He cleared the bar with a couple of great points while his second goal, a spectacular drive to the top corner, extended the lead out to seven points and although Castlebar did get a goal back, St Vincent’s were well in control going down the final stretch and sealed the victory with a final-minute free.