I’m finding the withdrawal symptoms difficult to deal with these days so, for this reason, I decided to head up to Parnell Park last night to see my local club up here in the metropolis, St Vincent’s, defend their Dublin senior football championship title as they took on Kilmacud Crokes in the semi-final. The match ended in a draw, 0-8 to 1-5: report in today’s Indo here), and while the standard wasn’t anything to rave about, it was a hard fought game that either side could have won.
Vins have strong Mayo links, of course, these days with last season’s All-Ireland winning duo Pat Kelly and Brian Maloney now joined by Austin O’Malley and all three lined out last night. Kelly was, not surprisingly, the pick of the three, scoring a delicious point from play late in the first half and sending in Mossy Quinn – who played well and ended the night on six points, five from frees – for another in the second half. With Ger Brennan alongside him at centre-back, the Kilmaine man shone for much of the sixty minutes and it was interesting to see which of the other inter-county players were able to strut their stuff in these more humble surroundings.
Austie wasn’t one to do so. Lining out at full-forward, the Louisburgh man played in that more withdrawn role that anyone following Mayo during the league would have become familiar with. He got and gave a fair bit of ball out around the fifty in the first half but stayed out there (for no apparent reason) and so he never even got a shot at goal. The closest he came was when he lofted a fifty into the square in true Hail Mary fashion but this was batted away easily enough. He didn’t appear for the second half and it was during this period, when the Marino club turned a two-point half-time deficit into a two-point lead, that the Vins looked anything more than ordinary. I’d say Austie might be struggling to keep his place the next day, especially if the suspended Diarmuid Connolly is eligible to come back.
In fairness to Austie, he wasn’t the only inter-county player to have a quiet night. Longford’s Brian Kavanagh – who’d played puck with Dublin here in the final of the O’Byrne Cup back at the start of the year – only managed a point from a free for Crokes and his teammate Liam McBarron from Fermanagh didn’t do much of note either. But the guy who had most of the crowd scratching their heads was Mark Vaughan who was utterly anonymous for most of the hour and did little or nothing to help rouse Crokes from their second half torpor as the match – which they looked like winning at half-time – slid away from them. But then, right at the death, he almost won it for them.
Twenty-eight minutes had elapsed in that second period before Crokes finally managed to trouble the umpires and when they did it was Vaughan who got the point from a well-struck fifty. A minute later, he landed an even better one, from way out on the right, to square the game and just after that he launched another into the square that the Vins defence managed to clear. The champions were in total disarray at this stage, desperately playing keep-ball to try to run down the clock but Crokes spurned an excellent chance in injury time for a second goal and then the Vins missed an even later chance for a winning point at the other end before the overly-fussy ref blew for time. It’s hard to know how the replay will go but if Connolly is eligible to play the next day (and I’m not 100% sure if he is), he could make the difference for the Vins.